Homeland Security Picks Cloud For Training

Department of Homeland Security will use one cloud-based enterprise talent management system for all eight of its agencies to efficiently identify training needs.

Patience Wait, Contributor

August 12, 2013

4 Min Read

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The Department of Homeland Security is moving to a cloud-based talent and training management system intended to help identify skills and training needs across DHS headquarters and all eight of the department's component agencies: Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Secret Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

To implement the new enterprise talent management system (ETMS), the department awarded a $95 million blanket purchase agreement to Visionary Integration Professionals (VIP) and its wholly-owned subsidiary Meridian Knowledge Solutions.

Jonna Ward, CEO of VIP, said the contract is the first of its kind: the consolidation of a business application that meets the Administration's cloud-first policy, announced in December 2010.

"Across the federal government, many agencies have been fulfilling that mandate with things that are frankly easier to do, focusing on email, other things like that," Ward said. "This is a system that's so crucial for DHS and its components, integrating an application and deploying it … is more difficult to do."

[ Who's doing the cloud right? Believe it or not, the federal government. Read Follow Feds To The Cloud. ]

She said the department chose to implement the ETMS first, rather than easier ones, because it anticipates realizing significant cost savings due to "powerful" economies of scale, in part because currently there are four different systems in place across the agencies, including one already provided by Meridian. Although the RFP did not require bidders to standardize on any of the existing systems, Ward said she believed that having the Meridian solution already in place in some of the agencies strengthened VIP's enterprise-wide proposal.

Another way DHS should realize savings is the use of consumption-based pricing for the system.

"As they add more users, the price goes down, so they have an incentive to get this implemented and rolled out as quickly as possible … to lower the per-user cost," she said.

Just as important as the cost savings, Ward said, is that the Meridian solution has FedRAMP certification. Also, VIP partnered with CGI Federal which will provide FedRAMP-certified IT infrastructure in the cloud, including virtual machine, Web hosting and continuous monitoring of security services.

FedRAMP, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

"The RFP did not mandate FedRAMP on day one … but the certification had to be in place at some point because they considered it critical to the protection of data," Ward said. "We were fortunate and believed that one of our differentiators [was that] we were the only ones that already had it."

The rollout of the ETMS will take place in waves, she said, but the implementation across all of DHS should be complete in less than a year and cover more than 250,000 employees, even more when contract employees are included.

Ward said there will lessons for other federal CIOs in this implementation. For instance, because this is a large shared-service model, others can see how to handle a rollout among multiple agencies within a department. The cost savings from leveraging the consumption-based model will be important. And the improvement in efficiency, because it moves all training and learning activities to one cloud-based infrastructure, allowing better knowledge and information-sharing across the enterprise, will be instructive.

Then there is the potential for future improvements, such as mobile learning opportunities.

Mobile learning was "not necessarily within the scope of the initial RFP, but you have to have the foundation in place before you roll something like that out," Ward said. "Also, the solution enables them to deploy big data kinds of strategies and solutions. [That] was part of the impetus, to have a single source for capturing all of this data across all of DHS. There's always a need and a want to do more of that, to have centralized data in a single solution and platform."

About the Author(s)

Patience Wait


Washington-based Patience Wait contributes articles about government IT to InformationWeek.

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