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Homeland Security Still Falling Short With IT Work

GAO says the department has to work on seven key practices. So far, it's a work in progress.

Government auditors have given mixed grades to efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to institutionalize seven IT-governance practices. Eighteen months after beginning the process, the department continues to unify its 22 constituent agencies.

Overall, the Government Accountability Office said in a report issued Monday, departmental efforts to implement the seven processes remain a work in progress. The processes are enterprise architecture, information management, information security management, IT human-capital management, IT-investment management, IT-strategic planning, and systems development and acquisition management.

"Such progress is not unexpected, given the diversity of the inherited agencies and the size and complexity of the department's mission operations," write Randolph Hite and David Powner, GAO directors of IT architecture and systems issues and IT management issues, respectively. Their 54-page report was sent to the chairs of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House subcommittee that oversees governmental-IT matters.

Yet, GAO says Homeland Security is jeopardizing the department's mission, budget, and capabilities by pursuing new and enhanced IT investment when it hasn't yet fully institutionalized the seven processes.

As the investigative arm of Congress, GAO had previously made recommendations related to most of these areas to department CIO Steve Cooper and other Homeland Security leaders. In response, the department has drafted an IT strategic plan. Still, GAO finds the plan lacking in explicit goals, performance measures, milestones, and knowledge of whether it has properly positioned IT staff with the right skills to accomplish these things.

GAO recommends the department establish IT goals, performance measures, and milestones, and analyze if its IT staff adequately supports its goals. Commenting on a draft of the GAO report, the department generally concurred with the auditors' recommendations.

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