Congress gives DHS less for IT, procurement

The Homeland Security Department will have to live with less money for its information technology programs while it deals with closer oversight of how it runs those programs and spends the money, according to a recent House/Senate conference report on the fiscal 2007 DHS Appropriations bill.

The conferees, for example, agreed to language contained in an earlier House report on IT oversight that requires DHS’ chief information officer to approve any IT procurement of $2.5 million or more, a move that would give the CIO a much greater control over IT planning.

DHS has come under increasing criticism from Congress and industry for the CIO’s apparent lack of input into IT planning and procurement. Its inspector general reported late last year that the CIO was in no position to integrate IT within DHS, and consequently, the department was missing critical components in its integration plan.

All IT procurements must conform to DHS’ enterprise architecture plan, the conferees said, and the department must justify any that deviate from it.

The conferees also answered complaints about the lack of overall support for DHS contracting by fully funding the department’s request for its Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, which will include hiring more contracting officers for the office and DHS’ component agencies.

The Government Accountability Office said recently that DHS lacked controls and oversight over a large swatch of interagency contracts it has used. That followed an earlier House report that highlighted about $34 billion worth of contracts that it said included significant overcharges and mismanagement.

The fiscal 2007 bill will require the DHS chief procurement officer to develop a procurement oversight plan that will identify oversight resources and how improvements can be made in the department’s overall procurement performance.

Separately, the conferees called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide a quarterly report to Congress on all contracts issued during any disaster. The report should include a detailed justification for any contracts that uses procedures that fall out of the usual multiple bid rules, they said.

Other items the conferees decided include:

  • The elimination of funding for the Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Efficiency and Effectiveness program, under which eight DHS financial management systems would have been combined into one.

    That was effectively dropped in favor of a less ambitious program earlier this year, but new DHS Chief Financial Officer David Norquist said recently that even that had been halted until further studies were completed.

    The conferees said the CFO can use the $40 million or so unobligated funds remaining from the program for financial management improvements and to coordinate systems improvements.

  • A $15 million cut for the Secure Flight program in view of delays by the Transportation Security Administration. Although they remained supportive of the passenger screening program, the conferees said TSA “cannot justify its fiscal 2007 budget request, cannot explain how this program will move forward or detail the associated cost.”
  • About $53 million for National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage (NCCIPS) data centers, with $12 million of that going to ongoing efforts to develop and transition the multiple DHS data centers to NCCIPS.

    The remaining $41 million will go to identifying and securing an NCCIPS backup site. The conferees said they believe that integrating the DHS centers into the primary and secondary NCCIPS data centers “will present significant opportunities for cost savings and provide the best investment for DHS critical information requirements.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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