Inspector: DHS lacks info sharing standard

The Homeland Security Department has yet to develop common information sharing procedures and/or efficiently manage its contracts, the DHS inspector general said today.

In a report on the department's management challenges, the inspector general said DHS is struggling with legacy systems and major management issues, and could take five to seven years to complete a transformation from 22 independent agencies to one seamless organization.

"DHS has taken steps to consolidate many of its support service operations, including financial management, contracting and human resources, but the operations are still not under central control, and contracts management and information technology present formidable challenges," the report said.

The year-old department must develop common standards for information sharing and "common and consistent policies for retaining and disseminating shared data." DHS officials currently are working on developing and acquiring information sharing systems as well as enhancing an existing product that will allow for sharing and collaboration, the IG report said.

But the department faces other problems. Developing and implementing a single, integrated financial management system is still years away, and an effective system to manage DHS grants is needed, the report said.

The Transportation Security Administration has made "great progress" in implementing safeguards and "our nation's defense against international terrorism has never been stronger," the report said.

Nevertheless, many obstacles, including delays in acquisition and implementation of technological solutions and a "shortage of critical infrastructure to support homeland security initiatives" continue to challenge the department, the report said.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said he agreed with inspector general's conclusion that although much progress has been made, it's not enough. "We are not as safe as we need to be, and now is not the time to lose our resolve," Turner said. "We must be vigilant."

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