The Homeland Security Department is putting cloud computing policy into practice, as the department begins migrating all of its public-facing, non-sensitive Web sites onto platforms maintained entirely by commercial cloud providers.

In addition, DHS is laying the groundwork to move two other programs to the cloud:an employment verification system and a data center services program.

The data center services plan will migrate 100,000 e-mail boxes and 90,000 collaboration accounts to private cloud services by June 2012. In addition, more than 230,000 DHS employees will be able to use enterprise-wide authentication services in the private cloud, streamlining their access to departmental applications, according to agency officials.

Last March DHS launched E-Verify Self Check, a free Internet service application that individuals–primarily immigrants–can use to confirm their employment eligibility in the U.S. The system is currently available in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Officials expect it to be available across the nation within the next 12 months. Developed in partnership with the Social Security Administration, the system lets job seekers identify any inaccuracies in their DHS and SSA records.

Department officials recently completed a cloud-computing acquisition strategy to set up consolidated and integrated Web service delivery for all current and future Web sites that are accessible by citizens, DHS spokesman Larry Orluskie told Breaking Gov.

“This will help improve access to our government-provided citizen services,” Orluskie said. Sites that will move to the public cloud include those for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ( and, the site for the DHS program created to oversee the Gulf oil spill cleanup.

For its current public Web sites, DHS uses disparate content-management system platforms that are managed and hosted independently, making it difficult for users to easily find information about DHS services.

By June 2012, the department plans to migrate 50 percent of its primary public-facing Web sites to a cloud-hosting service. The move is expected to reduce hosting costs by an estimated 10 percent. DHS officials expects cloud providers to maintain virtually 100 percent up-time for each Web site hosted in the cloud, ensuring that department information is always available to citizens.

As part of the department’s cloud-computing acquisition strategy, DHS officials established a framework for migrating and deploying public-facing Web sites to a cloud vendor, including a draft request for quotation (RFQ) from potential bidders.

“We collected a great deal of feedback on the draft and are getting ready to publish our RFQ,” Orluskie said.

DHS will compete requirements for its public-facing Web sites among vendors that hold a General Services Administration-sponsored authorization-to-operate under GSA’s new Infrastructure as a Service Blanket Purchase Agreement program, according to Orluskie.

The migration initiatives are part of DHS’s efforts to meet a key cloud-migration mandate under former U.S. chief information officer Vivek Kundra’s 25-point implementation plan to reform federal IT management, which was released in December 2010.

Under the Kundra plan’s “cloud first” policy, each agency CIO was required to identify three “must move” IT services or applications and create a project plan to migrate each of them to the cloud, at the same time retiring legacy systems associated with those services. Of the three programs, at least one must fully migrate to the cloud within 12 months and the remaining two within 18 months.

The administration’s “cloud first” strategy centers on using commercial cloud technologies where feasible, launching private clouds when sensitive information is involved, and deploying regional clouds with state and local governments where appropriate.

Officials say cloud computing, as a “pay as you go approach,” reduces the need for agencies to make expensive IT infrastructure investments. It requires a low initial investment and additional investments are needed only as system use increases. IT shops, when anticipating fluctuations in user demand, will no longer need to scramble to additional hardware and software. Cloud computing also eliminates interminable procurement and certification processes, they say.