DHS looks to combine agency biz cases

In one of the first steps to consolidate the nearly two dozen agencies that were brought together to create the Homeland Security Department, agency officials are considering combining fiscal 2005 budget requests to fund common missions instead of investing in separate and often disparate systems.

Steve Cooper, DHS' chief information officer, last week asked industry officials what they thought about consolidating the requests of the 22 agencies that make up DHS when he spoke via videoconference to a California gathering sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and FCW Media Group.

He said consolidating the business case for information technology expenditures would create a single integrated environment and likely would significantly affect those supplying and supporting services.

The IT business case, more technically known as Exhibit 300 of an agency's overall budget request, is a key element in the push toward performance-based budgeting, which links a program's funding to how well it meets identified goals and supports the agency's mission. Exhibit 300s must be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget in September as part of OMB's development of President Bush's fiscal 2005 budget.

For the first time, DHS will seek money this year as a department as it attempts to eliminate redundancies caused by the biggest government reorganization in history.

Scott Hastings, CIO at DHS' Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the department is identifying investments that might be related. "We're looking for broad portfolios where components may be reused or leveraged to prevent multiple investments in the same components," he said.

Hastings said DHS is looking at case management, alerts and warnings, and credentialing and identity as some common portfolios that could be shared. "I don't think it necessarily means that all individual agency investments will stop," he said. "There may be redirection, reorientation and realignment."

Patrick Schambach, CIO at the Transportation Security Administration, said the agency is participating in identifying redundancies within its boundaries as well.

Although it may seem that the intent is to spend less money, the consolidation move may simply mean "better organization and better responsiveness," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, an industry group.

Harris Miller, ITAA president, said consolidating Exhibit 300s would create opportunities for industry. "It sounds like an innovative approach to try to solve a major challenge, which is to combine a lot of different agency departments in relatively quick order," he said.

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