Committee leaders seek info on HSIN

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional information on Oct. 22, 2008 at 10:40 a.m.

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Democratic leadership remains concerned about the Homeland Security Department’s effort to overhaul its platform for sharing sensitive but unclassified information with state and local authorities.

In July, two of the committee’s senior Democrats, Bennie Thompson and Jane Harman, asked DHS to suspend work on the program until requirements for the platform’s users had been defined and validated.

Now the panel is impatiently awaiting an additional set of recommendations for the program from the Homeland Security Information Network Advisory Council. 

The lawmakers and the Government Accountability Office have criticized DHS’ management of and planning for the $62 million Homeland Security Information Network Next Gen. HSIN Next Gen will replace the current platform, HSIN, which has been criticized for not sufficiently meeting its users’ needs.

In two letters to DHS leadership dated Sept. 23 and Oct. 9, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the committee, requested the advisory council’s findings for oversight purposes. As of Friday morning, the committee had not received them.

DHS officials have defended the agency’s plan and argued against a halt to the program’s deployment.
In his Oct. 9 letter, Thompson wrote that the committee’s concern with HSIN Next Gen centered on GAO’s conclusion, in a report dated Oct. 8, that DHS “has yet to implement the full set of controls essential to effectively managing information technology system projects in a rigorous and disciplined manner.”

The committee assumes that the HSINAC has reached some of the same conclusions that GAO has reached. “Accordingly, it is critical that we understand where there is consensus so we can ensure that HSIN Next Gen moves in the right direction going forward,” he wrote.

A senior OMB official acknowledged working with DHS on the HSIN Next Gen project.

"We are exercising our oversight and management authority and working with the agency to address their needs," said Karen Evans, OMB administrator for e-government and information technology.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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