DHS working to consolidate technology acquisition

The Homeland Security Department so far has failed to consolidate the methods it uses to purchase technology from the vendor community, an issue that could affect several major projects, an information technology market consulting firm said. The department's plans for 2008 include building a shared culture and fostering interoperable systems across agencies to help bring its major technology projects to fruition, according to a report released by Input today.

Input cited several major technology projects in which DHS will have to orchestrate technology development and adoption across several of its own agencies as well as other federal enterprises, organizations within other governments and private entities.

DHS faces additional challenges in streamlining and coordinating its support of public safety operations headed by governors, mayors and local entities, Input said. The department's funding for state and local government projects may not become available within the same fiscal year the spending was authorized, and in fact, may be furnished over a period of several fiscal years.

The Marine Domain Awareness initiative is one example of a project requiring communication across DHS. The project, headed by the Coast Guard, aims to create a situational awareness tool that would give a real-time picture of the nation's maritime traffic. This tool would be similar to what the Federal Aviation Administration uses to monitor air traffic nationwide. However, the marine situational awareness tool requires the cooperation of ports, the Defense Department and local jurisdictions in addition to the Coast Guard.

The Secure Border Initiative, established in May, is a second example of a critical interagency project. The technology section of the initiative, known as SBInet, requires the construction of physical facilities and barriers; integrating technology and data assets; building new communication towers; and providing secure broadband data from video cameras on the ground and in the air, Input said.
Bringing SBInet into operation will require cooperation not only across DHS agencies, such as Customs and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but coordinated work with state and local agencies as well as the Canadian and Mexican agencies responsible for various aspects of border control.

The department's effort to provide cybersecurity services also calls for interagency cooperation, Input said. The response to cyberthreats requires cooperation not only across all civilian and military federal entities, but coordination with other government agencies at the state and local levels as well as with private enterprises, Input said.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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