Richard Spires

Procurement is emerging as one of the most significant issues facing federal information technology leaders as the Obama administration begins its second term, a top ranking government IT official said this week.

More and more federal agencies are making the leap to cloud computing, adopting mobile technologies and developing APIs to share information. But agency IT leaders remain hampered from moving faster by contracting constraints that make it hard to make cross-agency buys, said Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security and vice chairman of the Federal CIO Council. Keep reading →

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.

The GAO auditors reviewed information obtained from customers of DHS’s information sharing efforts, including 10 of 77 fusion centers, where states and major urban areas collaborate with federal agencies to improve information sharing; 1 of 7 DHS operational components who participate in the DHS Intelligence Enterprise, ICE; and 2 of DHS’s 16 intelligence community customers, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Investigators concluded DHS’s governance board is proving effective in enhancing collaboration among DHS components. The board has also developed and documented a process to prioritize some of the initiatives for additional oversight and support.

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

those information-sharing efforts.

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

currently face funding shortfalls.

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
However, GAO also noted that “DHS has not yet determined the specific capabilities each particular program must implement for DHS to conclude that it has improved information sharing enough to achieve its information-sharing vision for 2015.”

Establishing the level of capabilities programs must implement could help DHS prioritize programs, and track and assess progress toward its vision, the report said.

DHS responded to GAO’s report, saying department officials concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Richard Spires, CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, received the top honor given to a leader in the public sector among awards given by the TechAmerica Foundation this week.

The foundation announced the winners of the 2012 American Technology Awards, celebrating their involvement and contributions to the technology sector. The awards were given at a gala event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Keep reading →

Though efforts to consolidate government IT services have failed in the past, experts indicated at a summit on the topic Monday that those lessons will contribute to the ultimate success of the more recent and updated approach known as shared services.

Nearly 200 industry and government executives gathered to learn about the business case for shared IT services and governing the process toward the effort at the Government Information Technology Executive Council (GITEC) Summit in Baltimore, Maryland. Keep reading →

The convergence of several rapidly evolving technologies is creating new potential for innovation at federal agencies, a group of senior government officials said at a technology and innovation forum held in Washington, D.C., April 24.

The accelerating adoption of cloud computing strategies, the consumerization and commoditization of IT, the integration of mobile devices and applications in the workplace, the rise of social media, and the need to process exponentially greater volumes of data are each unleashing new and more cost effective ways to work, the officials said. Keep reading →

The Homeland Security Department plans to migrating to mobile devices and advance information sharing as part of updates to law enforcement technology, Federal Computer Week has reported.

CIO Richard Spires said the department has set up a joint program office for law enforcement agents to swap tactical radios (such as the one pictured above) for modern smart phones within five years. Keep reading →

One of the nation’s top government chief information officers predicted within the next five years, federal agencies will be able to begin procuring enterprise level back office information systems as a service rather than having to develop or maintain their own systems.

Richard Spires, CIO for the Department of Homeland Security, and vice chairman of the Federal CIO Council, said federal agencies–including DHS–are actively trying to reduce and standardize the number of commonly used information systems. Keep reading →

Federal CIOs say agencies and government contractors must become completely familiar with FedRAMP security controls and how they relate to each agency prior to the cloud computing service program’s launch this summer.

Richard Spires, CIO of the Department of Homeland Security, was one of several CIOs who spoke about FedRAMP at a trade group breakfast Friday. He told the packed breakfast meeting that contractors and agencies alike have to remember that FedRAMP is “not just an optional thing we can elect to do,” it’s mandatory. Keep reading →

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. Keep reading →

As the Government Accountability Office detailed in their public report this month on potentially duplicative investments at the Departments of Defense and Energy, duplicative IT systems exist throughout the federal government.

By their nature, duplicative IT systems are inefficient; they increase costs, prevent standardization, limit collaboration, and inhibit information sharing among and across the federal enterprise. Reducing duplicative IT systems is critical for the efficient operation of our government. Keep reading →

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