DHS seeks back office integration

Department of Homeland Security

Officials from the Homeland Security Department today spelled out plans and timelines to vendors for development of an enterprise financial and asset management system.

The initiative -- called the Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Efficiency and Effectiveness program, or eMERGE2, which was formally established as a program in September -- would include practically all financial operations, including budget management, funds control, general ledger, travel and procurement, accounts payable, cost management and acquisition.

DHS officials hosted what they called an Industry Vendor Day in Arlington, Va., outlining the program.

The initiative will look at reengineering business processes, procedures and policies and systems themselves. A request for proposals for such a system will likely be issued in May. The department envisions such a system would be rolled out in the second quarter of 2005.

Currently, there are about 70 people working on the core requirements, including representatives from several companies, such as BearingPoint Inc. and Science Applications International Corp. Those vendors can bid on the project -- a point that seemed to trouble several representatives from other companies, who wondered if the situation did not present at least an appearance of a conflict of interest, if not an outright one. One software vendor representative, who asked not to be identified, said that was a hot topic of conversation among vendors after the session ended.

Homeland security officials responded that system requirements would not be written to such a granular level that no system, or only one system, could meet them. They said as much information as possible will be made available to any vendor. Catherine Santana, director of the Resource Management Transformation Office (RMTO), also encouraged vendors to partner with other companies. The department provided an e-mail address (emerge2@dhs.gov) for vendors concerned about the process.

"It's what we need, not how it's going to be solved," she said.

Providing an integrated solution, eliminating redundant systems and improving backroom efficiency will allow DHS officials to focus on their core missions, Santana said.

Core design requirements are currently being defined and developed and no one has any idea what such a system would look like, she added. However, she stressed any system would be interoperable and would be Web-based.

The RMTO is essentially the program management office and is positioned under the DHS Office of the Chief Financial Officer, which is the lead agency on the project. That office is working in coordination with the department's chief information officer, chief procurement officer and chief acquisition officer. Santana did not say how much her office is budgeted for in fiscal year 2004, although there are multiple sources of funding. As a starting point, officials are using the department's enterprise architecture plan that was released this fall to help document and identify business processes and minimum capabilities. Existing systems would be leveraged as well. Any design specifications would be systems agnostic, officials said.

"We're not going to walk in and tear down everything that exists and start over again," Santana said. "We don't have a clean slate."

DHS formed earlier this year, combining 22 disparate agencies and more than 180,000 employees. It has $50 billion in assets and $36 billion in liabilities.

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