DHS official defends HSIN Next Gen

Despite calls from two senior House Democrats for the Homeland Security Department to stop work at least for a time on a new version of DHS’ national collaborative platform for sharing sensitive but unclassified information. an official who oversees the program’s development said its deployment should continue.

Stopping work now on the Homeland Security Information Network-Next Generation (HSIN Next Gen) project would hamper information sharing, said Harry McDavid, chief information officer for DHS’ Office of Operations Coordination which is developing the updated platform. McDavid said July 30 he was confident in the current plan for rolling out the new version of Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) in phases over the next 12 to 18 months.

“Not continuing with [HSIN Next Gen] puts the successes that we’ve achieved at risk,” he said.

McDavid added that he isn’t the person who makes a decision whether to halt the program and that DHS was working to answer a series of questions and concerns that two senior House Democrats submitted to the department in a letter dated July 23.

Government auditors, DHS’ inspector general and lawmakers have criticized the first version of HSIN for not fully meeting its users’ needs. DHS hired General Dynamics for $62 million in May to work on the HSIN Next Gen project that DHS says will be easier to use and more secure.

McDavid said that the HSIN program office has developed a strategy for HSIN Next Gen that uses lessons learned, recognizes the resource limitations of the program and does not incur cost, schedule, performance or security risks.

McDavid made the comments at the Homeland Defense Journal’s Fusion Centers and Information Sharing Conference in Washington, where he discussed HSIN's use in fusion centers. State and local authorities at intelligence fusion centers around the country use HSIN to share information.

The 2008 National Response Framework (NRF), which delegates different emergency response tasks to federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector when re, also identified HSIN as “the primary reporting method for information flow.”

In a letter dated July 23, Reps. Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who heads one of that panel's subcommittees, requested that DHS cease work on developing HSIN Next Gen until the requirements of state and local authorities as well as other users have for the system are developed.

“The [Government Accountability Office] reports, hearings and letters that HSIN has engendered over the last several years center on one thing: [DHS’] continuous and apparently continuing to identify, provide for, and adjust to end user requirements,” the letter reads.

McDavid said DHS is working to address the lawmakers’ anxiety about requirements but said there is some misunderstanding about what requirements have already been identified. He said that 54 percent of HSIN Next Gen’s requirements are new — about a 120 percent increase from the first version.

He said the new platform is being developed with input from end users and will be rolled out to users who work in the critical infrastructure sectors in mid-August. He explained the plan is to release the program to some of the more complex user groups first. There are also plans to deploy the new version to geographic regions — such as the National Capital Region -– to test how it is used across sectors as well.

“The Next Gen is really focused initially on the security of that platform so we can move forward to regain trust,” he said. “The real challenge for my mind isn’t the technology; it’s the data and the mission needs — that relationship, ” he said.

McDavid said DHS is in the process of answering questions that incl de:

  • How DHS plans to incorporate the needs of users of law enforcement information sharing databases.

  • How DHS’ Office of Operations Coordination has worked with state and local users to define requirements for HSIN Next Gen.

  • When DHS plans to staff the HISN Next Gen program office.

Alice Lipowicz contributed to this report .

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group