DHS takes a break to review Emerge2's future

Homeland Security Department officials last week confirmed widespread speculation that the main activities of the Emerge2 program are stalled, at best. The $229 million project still is alive, officials said, but its future is under review.

The officially titled Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Effectiveness and Efficiency program would create a new financial backbone for DHS, which was beginning to attract the moniker Submerge2 from industry wags aware of a current contract hiatus. The program remains an active program within DHS, chief financial officer Andy Maner said, but most work under the program will remain halted for weeks.
A team led by BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., completed the second of two task orders under its Emerge2 contract on June 10 and is not currently carrying out any work under the blanket purchase agreement, the company and the department confirmed.

The company started work on the project in late September 2004, when it received an initial $3 million task order against the blanket purchase agreement [GCN, Sept. 27, 2004, Page 7].
'I would love to be further along but I will not blame BearingPoint,' Maner said, alluding to his earlier statements that Emerge2 was lagging [GCN, May 16, Page 1]. 'The government and the vendors [on BearingPoint's team] all share responsibility for driving this program. The most important thing is that we are not wasting taxpayer dollars doing things we don't want.'

Pause that refreshes

BearingPoint has reassigned its Emerge2 staff to temporary work on other projects, according to spokesman Steve Lunceford.

Maner repeated earlier statements that his studies of inspector general reports on troubled federal IT projects had convinced him that it is important to know when to pause a project for evaluation.

In the case of Emerge2, DHS officials are re-examining the 'make or buy' decision concerning the department's consolidated financial system.
'I believe a lot of people don't ever stop or pause, they keep plowing ahead [on troubled projects],' Maner said. 'We decided to stop the burn rate while we made the decision.'

BearingPoint originally proposed a plan to create a new financial system. But DHS officials now also are reviewing whether to use an existing system within the department or obtain the services from a federal shared-service center, such as the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt. The bureau uses an Oracle financial system similar to the one BearingPoint was developing for Emerge2.

Under the Office of Management and Budget's Lines of Business consolidation initiatives, the administration is strongly encouraging agencies to use one of four agency centers of excellence.

In fact, DHS already is exploring whether to use the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center for front-end HR systems that would let employees adjust their benefits and other personnel information.
Maner said he expected the department's re-evaluation of Emerge2 would take at least a few more weeks, and that BearingPoint would receive no new task orders during the period.

'The department is in need of a new financial system and that need is not going away,' Maner said.

Department officials still are operating parts of the Emerge2 program that don't involve BearingPoint, Maner said, though he noted that the BearingPoint team had the main responsibility for the program.

'We are doing various process improvement things to existing systems, such as payroll [under the remaining parts of Emerge2],' Maner said.

DHS and BearingPoint executives cited work the company already has completed under its Emerge2 contract, including creating financial metric reporting tools, supporting financial statement enterprise work and preparing to implement the financial system.

'There is a pause right now while they look at their options. We have been told by DHS that the vision for Emerge2 remains the same and that BearingPoint's partnership with DHS remains active,' Lunceford said. n

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