When the Department of Homeland Security hired Chief Information Officer Richard Spires three years ago, he became the seventh CIO in eight years tasked with bringing rationality to DHS‘s unwieldy IT fiefdoms – and delivering on a mandate for sharing information across the department.
Spires, a former IRS deputy commissioner in charge of operations, quickly set his sights beyond technology matters, persuading the department’s top officials that to succeed, it would take a functioning governance board and the commitment of top leadership to support that governance if DHS was to achieve those goals.
That effort, followed by a systematic portfolio review of every major IT program across the DHS, is clearly paying off, according to a Congressional report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, issued Sept. 18, generally praised the Department of Homeland Security for making progress in achieving its information-sharing mission. But it also cautioned DHS that further steps should be taken to continue that progress and improve its efforts.
However, GAO said DHS needs to do more to sustain its progress: specifically updating its processes for identifying information-sharing gaps and the results; and analyzing root causes of those gaps. It also said DHS lacks an institutional record that would help it replicate and sustain
The report also noted that funding constraints appear to be having a significant impact on DHS’s key information-sharing initiatives.
“Progress has slowed for half of the 18 key initiatives, in part because of funding constraints,” the investigation found, noting five of DHS’s top eight priority information-sharing initiatives
The governance board has not been able to secure additional funds for these initiatives because they ultimately compete for funding within the budgets of individual components, although the board’s involvement has kept some initiatives from experiencing funding cuts, according to DHS officials.
DHS’s eight priority information-sharing initiatives, as of September 2012, include:
- Controlled Homeland Information Sharing Environment
- Information Sharing Segment Architecture Transition
- Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative
- Common Operating Picture/User-Defined Operation Picture
- Traveler Enforcement Compliance System Modernization
- Private Sector Information Sharing Work Plan
- Homeland Secure Data Network
- Homeland Security Information Network
DHS responded to GAO’s report, saying department officials concurred with GAO’s recommendations.