DHS bares Atlas plans

Immigration IT modernization work slated for 2009

The Homeland Security Department has issued detailed plans for Atlas, the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency's IT overhaul program.

Over several years, Atlas projects have provided technology upgrades across a broad range of ICE offices, including those dealing with trade law enforcement, immigration control, antigang work, intelligence activities and child protection.

The Atlas project provides architectural design, acquisition, integration and maintenance of hardware and software for information technology upgrades across the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. DHS plans to spend $23 million on Atlas in fiscal 2009, according to the Form 300 blueprint for the program.

The project outline for the coming fiscal year notes that the Government Accountability Office has repeatedly approved the Atlas technical plans, as Congress has required. The planning document also acknowledges that the Office of Management and Budget has flagged Atlas as a 'high-risk' IT activity.

The Form 300 outline of the department's plans for Atlas over the coming year resonates with OMB's skeptical views on the program's effectiveness.

According to a program review OMB did last autumn, Atlas earned a 'not performing' grade, largely on the grounds that it lacked a long-term strategy for building an information-sharing structure that would connect federal and state law enforcement agencies.

OMB's detailed evaluation of Atlas' achievements portrayed a mixed bag of accomplishments. For example, while Atlas had achieved its goal of deploying the department's standard e-mail and office productivity applications to 100 percent of ICE employee's desktops by the end of 2007, the program had connected only 14 percent of the agency's employees to enterprise decision support tools, OMB said.

As a result, many ICE employees continue to rely on searches of multiple databases, OMB said. Program officials told OMB that they plan to deploy the Atlas datamart function for information sharing to 63 percent of the agency's workforce by the end of this year and to link all employees by the end of 2009.

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