DHS to take a closer look at IT spending

More efficiency, more fixed-price contracts in store, says Elaine Duke

The Homeland Security Department plans more oversight of major acquisitions, including information technology buys, as the department plans to control spending, a top DHS official said today.

DHS' budget authority rose from an initial $31 billion in 2003 that year to $55.6 billion in fiscal 2010, an average increase of 7 to 8 percent a year. The Obama administration’s fiscal 2011 budget hasn't been released, but DHS anticipates less growth.

The department is using several strategies, including stronger central procurement oversight, strategic sourcing, greater use of fixed-price contracts and ongoing efficiency measures, DHS Under Secretary for Management Elaine Duke said at the third annual DHS Industry Day event.

Efficiency “will be very important, with flat and declining budgets,” Duke said. “Our job is to decrease overhead and leverage our spending to accomplish our mission.”

To strengthen procurement, DHS Chief Information Officer Richard Spires and the Acquisition Oversight Board will be more involved in reviewing major acquisitions, especially IT programs, Duke said.

“We are moving toward a better balance of cost, schedule and performance,” Duke said. In DHS’ early days, the emphasis was on speed, and cost and performance goals often suffered, she added, but that will now begin to reverse.

DHS officials will strive to write clear and comprehensive requirements to enable more fixed-price contracting and will reduce use of cost contracts and award-fee contracts.

Award-fee contracts tend to be too subjective, Duke said, while DHS is moving to tie its payment incentives in procurements to quantitative measures, such as achieving lower costs or a faster schedule.

The department’s first Quadrennial Homeland Security Review will be released in the near future, and after its release, DHS officials will conduct a “Bottom-Up review” led by DHS' chief financial officer. In the second review, the goal is to take the strategic objectives outlined in the quadrennial review and to link them with performance metrics and budgets.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano started efficiency measures earlier this year. Those include money savings from consolidating software licenses and refurbishing used IT equipment.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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