Lawmakers pressure DHS on financial modernization program

OMB urged to consider 'grave concerns' about TASC project

Two House Democrats are urging White House officials to seriously consider canceling the Homeland Security Department’s financial modernization IT program, which they say could cost as much as $1 billion because of poorly defined costs, completion dates and requirements.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.), who is chairman of the committee's Management, Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, have criticized the department’s Transformation and Systems Consolidation (TASC) project since July.

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In a letter dated Sept. 16 and addressed to Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients, the lawmakers wrote, "In addition to an undefined completion date and widely variant cost estimates, DHS has yet to define TASC system requirements, migration strategy or overall plan. In essence, at this juncture, DHS cannot definitively determine whether a completed TASC will meet the department's needs."

Thompson and Carney said DHS hasn't complied with recommendations for improving the $450 million to $1 billion project put forth by the Government Accountability Office and DHS' Office of Inspector General.

The lawmakers asked Zients to “consider the grave concerns” about the viability of the program, even though the department appears to be moving forward with the project.

A DHS spokesman said today that the department intends to comply with all White House requirements while preparing to award the TASC contract.

"DHS is fully committed to following OMB guidance to ensure a successful financial system implementation," wrote Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman, in an e-mailed statement. "We are working closely with OMB and progressing forward as we continue the planned TASC contract award."

In July, OMB halted 20 financial modernization projects pending further review, including TASC. Subsequently, four departments have either canceled their projects or broken them into smaller segments, and more changes are pending.

Thompson and Carney wrote to DHS Undersecretary for Management Rafael Borras about the program in July.

In response, Borras defended the TASC project, saying it had been reconfigured to be more manageable. He said that after the OMB review was concluded, departmental officials expected to award a TASC contract.

“TASC was specifically designed to segment work into small, manageable projects with individual task orders targeted for clear and concise deliverables," Borras wrote July 30.

OMB officials were not immediately available to comment on Thompson and Carney's latest letter.

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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