DHS sets rules for better management

The Homeland Security Department's new directive, issued more than a month ago, lays the ground rules for greater interaction and cooperation among officials in five critical management areas.

The management directive, which was approved by outgoing Secretary Tom Ridge Oct. 28, governs administration, finances, procurement, information technology and human resources.

"The whole idea is that they have to have principles and documentation for how a structure is going to work, and that's the idea of this directive," said Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman.

He said the directive instructs the chiefs of each area to form management councils and lists responsibilities associated with each council.

For example, Orluskie said the chief financial officer has formed a council composed of other CFOs at DHS. The council has seven responsibilities, including developing a strategic plan for setting priorities for financial management. The CIO and chief human capital officer have also formed councils. However, the directive does not specify how often they should meet, he said.

Orluskie said the directive also instructs each operations chief to provide service-level agreements in writing for the other department chiefs. "It also puts in writing that there will be an annual evaluation for the performance of the functions that's also inside each management directive," he added.

"It's not an earthshaking new directive," he said. "It's doesn't redefine anything. It doesn't create new departments of anything like that. It just pretty much lays out an order of how the departments will work together."

I.M. "Mac" Destler, a University of Maryland professor and expert on DHS' reorganization efforts, said the focus will shift to Ridge's successor. President Bush has nominated Bernard Kerik, whose appointment is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

"Ridge is very good politically, and he's liked," Destler said. "I just don't think he's been that strong or forceful a leader and the question is if you really take the department seriously what do you want?"

Donald Kettl, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said he had not seen the new directive, but he gives the department mixed reviews on its progress. It's been a short time for what could be considered the single biggest organizational transformation in American history, but he said as basic issues such as the problem of coordinating watch lists show, there's still a long way to go.

Another issue worth investigating is how much of DHS' management intelligence or strategic thinking — for example, on information technology and workforce issues — is being done in house vs. contracted out, he said. Several Government Accountability Office reports issued during the past year stress that department officials need to better integrate systems and provide more resources to the CIO's office to get the job done.

"I don't have clear data on this, but I've heard enough worrying things from people who are concerned about contracting out of the department's intelligence ... about how to best run the organization," Kettl said.

Making management work

The Homeland Security Department, which has been operating since March 2003, was formed by combining 22 agencies and 180,000 employees. The department's new management directive will provide better guidance for offices that offer departmentwide services, including:

* The Office of the Undersecretary for Management, led by Janet Hale.

* The Office of the Chief Financial Officer, led by Andrew Maner.

* The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, led by Greg Rothwell.

* The Office of the Chief Information Officer, headed by Steve Cooper.

* The Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, led by Ronald James.

Meanwhile, an inspector general report issued this past March listed significant departmental progress in consolidating services. For example, 19 financial management service providers were reduced to 10, 13 separate contracting offices were reduced to eight, 22 human resources offices were reduced to seven, eight payroll systems were reduced to three, and 22 property management systems have been consolidated to three.

— Dibya Sarkar

Featured

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.