DHS executes pivot to agile, but needs better reporting metrics

Agile development By Kalakruthi shutterstock image ID: 516494164 

The Department of Homeland Security has successfully planned and made progress executing its shift to agile software development over the past four years, but needs to do a better job on reporting metrics, according to a recent audit.

In a study released June 1, the Government Accountability Office, said DHS "has taken many positive steps in its transition to agile software development," including streamlining acquisition and life cycle processes that allow iterative delivery to providing senior executive level support for the transition.

While moving from waterfall development to agile, however, GAO said DHS did not adequately address the skills and resources required to complete the shift. For instance, the report said hasn't much incentivized or rewarded its development teams for using agile.

The agency has also declared some agile projects as completed, when work on them has only been deferred, according to the study. GAO said some agile projects in 2019, the year it studied for the report, had immediate goals completed, but other follow-on work, such as reports, and updates were deferred. Deferring reporting risks DHS ability to track whether the shift to agile is generating the desired outcomes, GAO concluded.

GAO issued 10 recommendations aimed at the CIO and the agency's IT Program Management Center of Excellence to measure outcomes, develop a reporting method for core agile measurement and adoption metrics, and set training requirements for agile methods.

The study was conducted from Dec. 2017 to April 2020 at the behest of bipartisan trio of congressional requesters on the House Homeland Security Committee.

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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


  • Budget
    cybersecurity (vs148/Shutterstock.com)

    House's DHS funding bill would create public-private cyber center

    The legislation would give $2.25 billion to DHS' cyber wing and set up an integrated cybersecurity center with other agencies, state and local governments and private industry.

  • Workforce
    Former vice-president Joe Biden formally launches his 2020 presidential campaign during a rally May 18, 2019, at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. (Matt Smith Photographer/Shutterstock.com)

    Biden promises to undo Trump’s workforce policies

    Democratic candidate pledges to appropriate permanent funding to feds in case of another shutdown.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.