Homeland Security

DHS CIO touts tech transformation

Shutterstock image: digital technology.

An increased focus on agile development and contracting is helping the Department of Homeland Security move ahead on a host of technical fronts, DHS CIO Luke McCormack said.

"We're transforming, using modern techniques to modernize" the department, he said during a panel discussion at AFCEA's Homeland Security Conference on June 22.

He added that the increasingly close collaboration with DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa though programs such as the Procurement Innovation Lab, which lets contracting officers try out new ideas, is helping to shift the agency's culture toward "taking risk to eliminate risk."

Michael Palmer, a member of the DHS Digital Service team, said the department is working on an agile procurement vehicle that will enhance its digital capabilities. A request for information was released in May.

Palmer declined to comment on how the Flexible Agile Support for the Homeland (FLASH) contract would interact with other digital services such as those offered by the General Services Administration's 18F. But he did say contractors should be familiar the Digital Services Playbook and incorporate its concepts into their work.

McCormack said FLASH could be a significant building block for the agency's acquisition efforts. Although no date has been set for a formal request for proposals, DHS plans to hold an industry day on June 29 to explain the project in more detail.

DHS is conducting five IT pilot projects designed to showcase the pivot to agile: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' verification system, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood insurance and grants management programs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and the Transportation Security Administration's Technology Infrastructure Modernization Program.

McCormack said the projects are using modern development techniques in real-world applications with the goal of modernizing aging, ineffective systems more quickly and efficiently than traditional acquisition techniques allow.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 28, 2016 IT Reformer Washington DC

It looks like DHS did not see the hearing with US DS and 18F that revealed congress' displeasure with the build versus buy approach around agile development. Federal laws require that government give preference to bind commercial solutions versus engaging in high-risk software development activities that often fail

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