DHS lights fire under IT procurement team

DHS lights fire under IT procurement team

The Homeland Security Department plans to release a series of major procurements in the next 90 days for commodity IT products and services that all DHS elements use, deputy CIO Mark Emery said this afternoon.

Speaking before a meeting of the Industry Advisory Council, Emery said that on the domain contracting front, 'I think we have been slow. I think we have lit a fire underneath our [procurement] team.'

DHS will seek domain contracts to cover commodities such as help desk services, PCs, routers, switches, maintenance and bandwidth.

Emery confirmed CIO Steve Cooper's earlier description of the domain procurements as a means of unifying the department's methods of purchasing IT goods used across the department. Various agencies within the department now use separate procurement vehicles, often ones they inherited from their legacy departments, to buy IT.

'We want to put together a suite of requirements' for the domain contracts, he said. 'In the next 90 days you will see a series of these procurements come up.'

DHS technology leaders still have much work ahead of them to bring order to the department's IT array, Emery said. For example, 'We still have islands of networks,' he said, and not all e-mail systems are consolidated. He repeated DHS officials' pledge to forge ahead with data center consolidation over the coming months.

Emery conceded that the department recently received a failing grade for systems security. But he pointed to some improvements. 'We've gone from 14 percent of our employees trained in information security to over 85 percent,' he said.

Part of the 10 percent budget increase the department's CIO office is slated to receive in the administration's budget request will go to increased information security, Emery said.

DHS technology managers now estimate they have identified and inventoried 70 percent of the department's systems, even though they are continuing to discover previously unnoticed systems, Emery said. The suggestion that the CIO office does not have an inventory of 30 percent of the department's systems appeared to conflict with the department's statements last year that it had completed a systems inventory. 'We are still a startup,' Emery said of DHS' developing systems plans.

A group of senior infrastructure officers at DHS meets weekly to hammer out decisions on how systems should be managed and connected to various networks, he added.

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