Delays beset DHS financial systems procurement

Contract expected in second quarter of 2010

The Homeland Security Department is more than a year behind schedule and too reliant on contractors in its second attempt to integrate its financial management systems, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The Transformation and Systems Consolidation (TASC) program was initiated in June 2007 as a successor to the eMerge2 financial systems consolidation initiative, which was canceled after two years of development. At the time, the goal of TASC was to migrate systems to an existing system in use at several DHS agencies; however, following a bid protest, DHS revised its strategy to instead acquire an integrated commercial-off-the-shelf software system to be deployed departmentwide.

Under its pre-protest timeline, DHS anticipated that several of its smaller operating agencies — including the Office of Health Affairs and the Directorate for Science and Technology — would have begun operations on the department’s integrated system by Nov. 30, 2008, the GAO said in the report dated Dec. 7.

Now, the plan is to select a vendor by the second quarter of fiscal 2010. The bid protest and litigation contributed to the delays, GAO said.

Meanwhile, two new concerns have emerged that pose “unnecessary risks” to the transformation program, according to the report. First, DHS is too reliant on the selected contractor to complete key documents for requirements management, testing, data conversion and quality assurance, GAO said.

“The extent of DHS’ reliance on contractors to define and implement key processes needed by the TASC program, without the necessary oversight mechanisms to ensure that the processes are properly defined and effectively implemented, could result in system efforts plagued with serious performance and management problems,” the GAO concluded.

In addition, DHS’ Validation and Verification contractor for the TASC procurement was not independent enough, GAO said. DHS officials have restructured the contract to address those concerns.

GAO previously reviewed progress on the transformation project in 2007 and recommended that the department define a financial management strategy, develop a concept of operations, incorporate disciplined processes and perform human capital planning. DHS has partially implemented those recommendations, GAO said.

However, DHS has not taken action on two additional recommendations: to standardize business practices across the department and to develop detailed migration and consolidation plans. DHS will not know all the information it needs until it selects a contractor, GAO said.

GAO makes seven recommendations and reaffirms its six prior recommendations for the TASC program. DHS officials agreed with the recommendations and said they had taken action to complete them, according to the report. GAO said those actions were completed for one recommendation only.

The new report expands upon concerns raised at a congressional hearing in October and by the DHS Office of Inspector General earlier this year.

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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