DHS CIO midway through IT programs review

So far no programs found to be fatally flawed

The Homeland Security Department’s senior information technology executives are about halfway done reviewing each of the department’s 79 major IT programs and, so far, none have been slated to be killed, according to DHS chief information officer Richard Spires.

Spires said he undertook the review after he began as CIO last year to identify ways to help troubled programs in the near-term and to look for systemic weaknesses in program management and figure out fixes for those problems. The 79 programs account for the vast majority of the $6.4 billion for DHS IT spending that the Obama administration requested for fiscal 2011, Spires said Feb. 4 during an event hosted by the American Council for Technology - Industry Advisory Council in Washington.

“I haven’t seen one of them yet that isn’t important" to DHS’ mission, Spires said. “Obviously if we see a program that isn’t or if we see a program that we think is fatally flawed we’re prepared to cut it off, but every one we’ve seen so far – and we’ve seen some of the big ones – we think, with help, that we can get these things on the right track.”

Related story:

Spires named new CIO at DHS

Spires said there are pockets of excellence across DHS’ IT programs, but there are also some very troubled programs. He added that what bothers him the most is that DHS has very little departmentwide institutionalization of process disciplines, standards and tools for IT programs, so the maturity of programs varies widely.

“I’m hoping that one of the things I can look back on and say we really made a significant difference in [is] maturing the processes to manage and effectively deliver IT and make it more strategic for the organization,” he said.

Meanwhile, Spires also said his office is increasing the percentage of its workers who are federal employees rather than contractors. He said when he started his position there were about 100 federal employees compared with around 700 contractors working for the DHS’ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). Spires said that ratio doesn’t allow for proper oversight and leadership. He said the office now has 165 feds and the OCIO is moving to have more than 200 this year.

“It’s not that we don’t value the contractors – we really do,” he said. “But there’s a lot of inherently governmental work.... There’s just certain things that we have to do as government employees that we really can’t ask contractors to do.”

Spires and DHS’ Deputy CIO Margaret Graves identified seven goals for department’s IT:

  • Improve IT performance.
  • Accelerate the department’s data center consolidation project and complete the OneNet program to collapse the department’s legacy networks.
  • Broaden and deepen the department’s enterprise architecture.
  • Maintain cybersecurity focus, continue work on putting in place Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 requirements for interoperable identification cards.
  • Foster improved internal and external information sharing.
  • Ensure operational excellence.
  • Bolster government IT employee base.

Meanwhile, Graves said so far DHS had migrated five of its 24 legacy data centers to the department’s two enterprise data centers and plans to migrate five other major centers this year. Graves also said the department will be moving to combine its network operations center and its security operations center into one enterprise operations center.

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.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • 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.

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