At DHS, 'agile' is the watchword, CIO says

The Homeland Security Department is embracing agile development practices and working on an acquisition strategy for agile projects as well, Chief Information Officer Richard Spires said on May 15.

Agile software development is a method in which functionality is developed in a modular, incremental form in a relatively short period of time. It has gained a following in a number of federal agencies in recent years.

Spires, who spoke at a conference sponsored by the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum, said the department is enthusiastic about the approach.

“I am very big on agile or modular development,” Spires said. “We are really pushing agile. I have half a dozen agile projects going on today.”

The advantage of agile is that it “lowers risk and delivers capabilities in an incremental fashion,” Spires added. “Agile is proven and many people are using it.”

DHS has an integrated program team led by Mark Schwartz, CIO at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agencies, developing policies and strategies for implementing agile practices, he said. The team is currently working on an acquisition methodology for agile.

“We want to work agile into our acquisition and systems engineering lifestyle – What are the gates? What are the documents needed?” Spires said.

Initially, implementing agile development was difficult, because it is so different from the traditional information technology development method, Spires said. But it has recently become easier with practice.

“We are on the third sprint with this, and we have shown it can work,” Spires said.

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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