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FCW.com October 04, 2004

GAO: DHS infrastructure still lacking

By Aliya Sternstein

Homeland Security Department officials are still working on the grueling task of creating a single information technology infrastructure, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report, issued last week, said DHS officials face a "formidable information and technology management challenge" as they attempt to build an agencywide infrastructure.

"I think that what's important to remember is that this is a new agency," said Linda Lambert, assistant director of IT management issues at GAO.

Robert Dix, staff chief of the House subcommittee that oversees cybersecurity policy, said, "I don't want anyone to think we snap our fingers and 22 [agencies] become one."

"It's probably the biggest integration job imaginable," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org. "All these agencies have a multitude of systems with no forethought in terms of having them talk to one another. The good news is that, for the most part, these are commercial systems instead of proprietary systems, so they have someplace to start."

GAO auditors said that DHS officials must focus on core areas such as strategic planning, institutionalizing an enterprise architecture, security management and human resources management.

"The operational reality of starting a new organization such as DHS is that it must strike a balance between its pursuit of new and enhanced systems and establishing the means for achieving a family of systems that optimally support departmentwide operations and mission performance," GAO's report states.

DHS officials have made some progress in establishing those core areas in certain pockets of the agency, GAO auditors said, but they have not been able to carry those successes across the agency.

"They had a draft strategic plan and draft road maps, but their documents didn't have good information on goals, performance measures, milestones and staff resources," Lambert said. "We'll see during audit follow-up whether the recommendations have really been met."

The agency's enterprise architecture is a case in point, GAO auditors said. DHS' architecture is not derived from a department or corporate strategy. "Moreover, it is missing most of the content necessary to effectively guide and constrain IT investments," the report states.


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