Strengthening the Relationship between Federal IT, Procurement and Industry
By Luke McCormack, CIO and Soraya Correa, CPO, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Rapid technology development and shrinking resources present the federal government with great challenges, but also great opportunities. To deliver world-class digital services to the American people in this ever-changing environment, the Department of Homeland Security’s Offices of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and Chief Procurement Officer (OCPO) work together with the private sector to improve federal information technology.
"Moving to the cloud allows for flexible acquisitions resourcing, but also requires common contracting and services platforms in order to be successful"
Effective IT management requires a close partnership between the CIO and CPO communities. This collaborative relationship helps ensure that appropriate prioritization and attention in the programming and budgeting process. In 2014, Congress supported these aims by passing the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA). This Act provides federal CIOs with additional authorities and tools to shape their agency’s IT budgets. FITARA creates a clear line of responsibility, authority, and accountability over IT investment and management decisions within each federal agency, and gives CIOs increased flexibility by empowering them to make prudent business decisions that support their agency’s unique needs.
As part of Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Unity of Effort initiative, DHS is leveraging the valuable CIO-CPO partnership to improve how we manage IT investments. Together with FITARA, this effort seeks to promote open, reciprocal, and effective communication between DHS and our industry partners to fulfill our agency’s wide-ranging missions: prevent terrorism and enhance security, secure and manage our borders, enforce and administer our immigration laws; safeguard and secure cyberspace, and strengthen national preparedness and resilience.
Why Do This Now?
Custom solutions designed for a singular purpose or multiple, incompatible enterprise systems are not cost-efficient or effective. To reduce duplicative efforts, the CIO and CPO are taking a more active role to decrease redundancies by increasing cross-agency shared services and collaboration. Leveraging emerging technologies requires DHS to apply best practicesand adopt an “open market” strategy. This includes taking a holistic approach to computing services. While DHS must retain a “brick and mortar” data center to sustain critical operations, the Department continues to explore, solicit and deploy secure cloud-computing and “as-a-service” offerings from industry as much as possible.
Moving to the cloud allows for flexible acquisitions resourcing, but also requires common contracting and services platforms in order to be successful. While one size does not fit all with cloud-based models, interoperability and common base requirements allow for standardization, reduced cost, and streamlined acquisition processes. Our goal is to meet the unique needs of our components with the best IT resources available.
The DHS Strategy and Approach
With support from the Office of Management and Budget, DHS has taken steps to form its own Digital Services Team. Modeled after other successful programs, the DHS Digital Services Team is staffed by highly skilled and experienced IT professionals. In addition, DHS hired a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to enhance the Department’s IT leadership capabilities. The CTO has hit the ground running and is actively pursuing high-priority technology programs with our industry and government partners.`
Additionally, we are actively finding ways to streamline acquisition processes and enhance how we do business. This includes instituting a common approach to how we engage with industry, allowing us to better understand their needs and behaviors so we can create smart business plans. This is a priority across the Department and it will help deliver robust yet flexible solutions for DHS’s IT requirements.
We are also continuing to build on our successes and harness DHS’s purchasing power by streamlining acquisition ordering processes and procedures for our organizations. We anticipate several benefits, including:
• Increased competition, flexibility, reliability, scalability, and security;
• Decreased cost and time-to-market;
• New concepts and technologies; and
• Robust and state-of-the-art cybersecurity.
Learning from Industry
As responsible stewards of taxpayers’ dollars, DHS must continually enhance its understanding of how industry buys, sells, and obtains best-value solutions. With that in mind, DHS is committed to strengthening our relationships and improving communications with industry.
In support of the Secretary’s Unity of Effort initiative, DHS is focusing on increasing communications with our industry partners. This means sharing important information early in the process while being receptive to industry’s challenges and suggestions. For example, the Department recently hosted a Strategic Industry Conversation, which provided a venue to discuss program-specific topics such as biometrics and big data. Based on feedback from events like these, we hosted additional industry engagements to provide our partners with insights and information on the Department’s strategic priorities, planned procurements, internal processes, and other strategic topics. Ultimately, this will lead to more pinpointed solutions that meet our specific requirements, industry partners with greater awareness of our challenges and goals, and teams who are committed to helping us fulfill our missions.
Better Serving our Federal IT Customers
The Department of Homeland Security is committed to building a stronger, more secure and more efficient IT enterprise to serve the American public. With this as our common goal, the DHS CIO and CPO communities continue to engage with the industry to strengthen our national and economic security. Our approach to computing services will enhance DHS’s operational capabilities by simplifying shared services, increasing reliability and availability of infrastructure, and strengthening our cybersecurity posture.