New acquisitions aim to improve DHS infrastructure

'We need to focus on projects on the ground' rather than planning projects.

' DHS CIO Scott Charbo

The Homeland Security Department is shaking up its IT infrastructure with a sweeping new program, the Infrastructure Transformation Program, that wields the acquisition muscle of DHS' two new omnibus procurements'the Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge solutions (Eagle) and FirstSource.

DHS is consolidating and centralizing control of its data centers, e-mail systems and help-desk services, and sensitive but unclassified video communication networks under three directorates.

Scott Charbo, department CIO, described the infrastructure program to a hushed crowd of hundreds of vendors gathered at the Ronald Reagan Center in downtown Washington last week. Many other vendor representatives had been turned away from the fully subscribed industry day, according to the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council, which hosted the event.

DHS will use Eagle for agencywide IT support services and FirstSource for acquiring IT commodities. The department released a draft request for proposals for Eagle and First-Source earlier this month and plans to issue the final RFP in September.

Charbo cited five goals for the infrastructure makeover program:

  • Improve performance in terms of IT projects

  • Energize information sharing

  • Focus on information assurance and security

  • Focus on projects on the ground rather than planning projects

  • Move forward with shared services and infrastructure.

    Charbo is anxious to move forward on plans that have already been proposed instead of continuing to discuss them. 'We have enough PowerPoints.'

    Charbo said that he and Rear Adm. Ron Hewitt, the deputy CIO, had been briefing Office of Management and Budget and legislative leaders over the past month and a half about the infrastructure reform program [GCN, August 15, Page 5].

    Hewitt, the Coast Guard CIO detailed as DHS deputy CIO, is returning to the Guard, Charbo said.

    The Infrastructure Transformation Program calls for the department to consolidate its sensitive but unclassified networks, Charbo said. It also will complete the process of building a common e-mail system for the department and consolidate DHS' array of several data centers at two sites. Right now, there are about six e-mail systems that support the common e-mail address of Officials would not confirm the precise number of data centers the department now uses.

    The department has long sought to fully consolidate its e-mail systems and winnow its data centers. Former CIO Steve Cooper repeatedly pledged to set these tasks in motion but did not complete them. When the department took shape in March 2003, officials already had identified these tasks as part of the planning to create the new department.

    The ITP follows successive projects aimed at bringing order to the department's IT infrastructure. This planning has been reflected in the enterprise architecture development process over the past two years.

    DHS is building a major new data center to consolidate some of its existing data functions and to move away from its current reliance on Justice Department data center services, according to DHS and Justice officials.

    The transformation project also calls for the department to consolidate its help desks.

    Procurement plans

    Additional tasks Charbo and his team plan to tackle include improving disaster recovery plans and capabilities, creating and enforcing technology standards, and exploiting the department's buying power via the new omnibus contracts [see boxes, this page].

    The Customs and Border Protection agency would take responsibility for DHS' two data centers and run the department's OneNet network backbone under the ITP plan. CBP already runs a very large department data center with hundreds of employees in Northern Virginia.

    The Coast Guard would manage the department's consolidated e-mail system and provide help desk services across the department, Charbo said.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency would carry the ball in the sensitive but unclassified video communication arena.

    Chief procurement officer Greg Rothwell described how the two procurements now under way, Eagle and FirstSource, will operate via a new Enterprise Solutions Office in the Information Technology Acquisition Center at the headquarters procurement shop.

    Department officials responsible for procurement management have been recruiting procurement professionals for the new ESO, drawing them from agencies such as the Veterans Affairs Department and the IRS.

    Rothwell said the department plans to move ahead quickly on its pending procurement plans.

    'We are assuming these two [procurement] programs will be done in nine months on the outside,' Rothwell said.

    DHS builds departmentwide services procurement

    Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (Eagle)

    What it is: DHS seeks to consolidate its purchasing of IT services. Eagle is not a governmentwide acquisition vehicle, but other agencies will be allowed to use it for homeland security-related purchases only. The department will be able to buy both managed services and systems integration via Eagle, along with many other types of support.

    Feds in charge: DHS chief procurement officer Greg Rothwell has delegated Eagle oversight to Sara Schroerlucke and Bill Thoreen of his office's Information Technology Acquisition Center.

    Cost: DHS officials are vague on this point, saying the amount of funds expended through Eagle will depend on the success of the program. But they expect the Eagle acquisition to form a significant part of DHS' annual technology spending of more than $4 billion.

    Schedule: DHS earlier this month issued a draft request for proposals, available at Officials say they plan to release a final RFP in September and award a limited number of contracts by the end of the year to both large and small businesses.

    FirstSource to consolidate DHS hardware buying


    What it is: DHS launched an omnibus acquisition for hardware for all the department's agencies to use. The procurement is only open to small businesses.

    Feds in charge: DHS chief procurement officer Greg Rothwell plans to run the project out of his Information Technology Acquisition Center, with the assistance of center director Daniel McLaughlin and contracting officer Mike Smith.

    Cost: DHS has declined to provide the total estimated dollar value of the items to be purchased via FirstSource. But it wants the selected vendors to provide online catalogs of all the IT equipment typically offered by a full-line commercial vendor.

    Schedule: DHS has posted a draft request for proposals on The department plans to issue a final RFP by Sept. 30 and award several contracts to small businesses by the end of December.

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