GAO: Homeland Security lacks big picture on IT

The Homeland Security Department plans within the next few months to establish goals, performance measures and timelines for its eight priority IT areas, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

In response to the GAO audit that criticized enterprisewide management of IT, the department said it would soon release measurement and implementation plans for information sharing, governance, human resources, enterprise architecture, mission rationalization, infrastructure, portfolio management and information security.

'Initial road maps have been developed for each of these priority areas,' said Anna F. Dixon, DHS' director for departmental GAO and inspector general liaison.

DHS agreed with GAO's finding that it has a 'daunting challenge' integrating legacy systems from its 22 component agencies while simultaneously improving its systems skills and launching new systems.

But Dixon balked at the characterization that the department failed to monitor its systems work. The audit 'glosses over DHS' performance measures process,' she said. She noted that the budget approval process with the administration and an internal investment process capture such data and allow DHS brass to monitor IT efforts.

GAO countered that while the budget process and internal reviews might get project-specific information, the department still lacks an enterprise-level set of measures for the eight priority areas.

'The operational reality of starting a new organization such as DHS is that it must strike a balance between its pursuit of new and enhanced systems and establishing the means for achieving a family of systems that optimally support departmentwide operations and mission performance,' GAO concluded.

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