Common Operating Picture (COP) systems are critical for supporting the situational awareness needs of the homeland security mission.

Through our portfolio review process at the Department of Homeland Security, we identified more than 20 different COP investments, most of which were largely uncoordinated, stand-alone investments.

To establish governance in this area, we reached out to the National Operation Center (NOC), the DHS component responsible for situation awareness. The NOC has primary responsibility for serving as the nation’s homeland security nerve center for information collection and sharing.
This is the last of a three-part series adapted from testimony by Department of Homeland Security CIO, Richard Spires, addressing duplicative investment spending in government, released on Feb. 17, to a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. The first article focused on the need for portfolio governance to make the hard, but necessary decisions to reduce redundancy. The second article focused on DHS’s progress reducing redundant human capital IT systems.

DHS now has an effective COP Governance Board chaired by the director of the NOC. The COP governance board has been operating for about nine months. Under the director’s leadership, all DHS components with COP investments, as well representatives from the DHS Office of Policy, actively participate in activities designed to bring these diverse investments together.

The unity of effort is already producing significant outcomes in the short time the COP governance board has been operating.

We have documented more than 1,000 sources of trusted and authoritative data sets used for the homeland security mission.

Those engaged in the use of COP technologies can now rapidly find many key sources of data, enabling them to be more efficient in supporting the mission and avoiding duplication of effort.

As a direct result of the work done by the COP governance board, FEMA provided critical data and technologies to support the NOC during the response to Hurricane Irene.

Further supporting the operational mission, the NOC will stand up a new version of the DHS COP later this month. The new DHS COP includes key updates informed by the requirements defined by the COP governance board.

The plan is to roll out the new COP to DHS operation centers across the enterprise over the next year, eliminating numerous duplicative COP investments. In addition to internal coordination, the COP governance board also coordinates with the Federal Geographic Data Committee on the standup of the Federal GeoPlatform.

The goal is to assess how this potential shared service can support portions of our unclassified missions and provide solutions for government-to-citizen services.

As a result of the efforts of the COP governance board, today we are better able to share information across the department and with homeland security stakeholders more effectively.

Looking government-wide

This administration, under the leadership of federal government CIO Steve VanRoekel, recently announced a “Shared First” initiative aimed at rooting out waste and duplication across the federal IT portfolio. Government agencies must identify and eliminate duplicative IT systems as part of an overall strategy to enhance efficiencies and drive more effective operations.

As I have highlighted, DHS has taken many steps to lead this effort to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the department’s systems.

A collaborative, analysis-based approach that leverages the implementation of robust enterprise governance, cross-enterprise portfolio governance, together with segment enterprise architecture, is imperative to ensuring IT efficiently and effectively supports the mission and business functions of a government agency.

A positive byproduct of this work is the identification and eventual elimination of duplicative IT systems.

These methods can support implementation of “Shared First,” and they should be used throughout the federal government to drive real improvements in effectiveness and efficiency in government operations and services.

Richard Spires is CIO of the Department of Homeland Security and an officer of the Federal CIO Council. Prior to his appointment in 2009, he served as CIO and later Deputy Commissioner at the IRS.