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IT spending at DHS: High technology meets budget realities

Stephanie Sullivan

Government agencies are standing on the edge of a financial cliff. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken that to heart, requesting less in the FY2013 budget than in previous years. Despite the dip, DHS will still make inroads in mobility, cloud computing and data center consolidation, across all its sub-agencies.

The overall 2013 DHS budget request is just under $40 billion -- significantly lower than in previous years. The department’s IT budget request is just over $5.75 billion -- down from $5.79 billion in FY2012. More cuts are expected in FY2014 because the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requesting a 10 percent overall reduction in IT budgets across every agency.  

DHS has the second largest civilian agency IT budget, trailing only slightly behind Health and Human Services. IT is essential to DHS’s overall priorities of guarding against terror; securing borders; enforcing immigration laws; preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters; and unifying and maturing DHS.
In the coming years, commodity IT procurement, cloud, mobility and data center consolidation at DHS will all be aimed at reducing costs and improving efficiency. The agency wants to develop nine private cloud services for sensitive data and three public cloud services for non-sensitive data. That data will be maintained in DHS data centers, wrapped with mobile capabilities, which will unlock a wide range of services with mobile implications, including workplace as a service and email as a service. This will allow employees to work on a variety of mobile devices, including their own laptops, tablets and smart phones with security architecture.

For some sub-agencies, cloud and mobile infrastructure will also enable the kind of “James Bond” technologies that support law enforcement efforts. DHS plans to move from land mobile to a 4G network in next five years, which will allow applications such as on-demand video and biometric identification checks to work on smart phones and tablets.
Overall, the cloud trend marks another major priority at DHS -- improving information sharing and data integration for a more streamlined IT infrastructure. Under the Data Center Consolidation Initiative, the DHS Office of the CIO has marked 43 data centers for closure, leaving two enterprise data centers remaining.

Let’s look across the DHS sub-agencies for a better idea of where they’re planning to spend the money.
Customs and Border Protection has requested $1.518 billion in FY2013, down from $1.527 billion in FY2012. That money will be aimed at RFID, biometrics, advanced analytics and rapid response, as well as finding ways to extend the life of current systems, which will reduce operations and maintenance costs.
Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) IT budget request is $769 million. TSA wants to improve its remote capabilities by acquiring Apple devices over the next three years, and plans to migrate data centers for a common enterprise infrastructure.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services’ FY2013 request is $724 million -- down from $777 million in FY2012. Improved administration of immigration benefits, better customer service, new customized automated tools and replacement of outdated training applications are all in the works.
The FY2013 budget request from the National Protection and Programs Directorate has increased to $647 million, from $605 million in FY2012. This sub-agency plans to invest in subcomponent IT, to get better return on investment from DHS enterprise architecture, and to ensure IT security program compliance.

An interesting story is playing out at the U.S. Coast Guard, which has asked for significantly less this year than last -- $573 million in FY2013, as opposed to FY2012’s $643 million. The Coast Guard has a foot in two camps, the DHS and the Department of Defense. Balancing those responsibilities is critical. Coast Guard CIO, Rear Admiral Robert Day, Jr., acknowledges that in the coming years, there won’t be budget enough for the “must haves,” let alone the “good to haves.” The Coast Guard is looking closely at infrastructure performance management and systems lifecycle management to extend the ROI on its IT spending.
Industry is essential to DHS’s mission fulfillment. As the financial landscape shifts, look for more agencies to learn from DHS’s example, helping government achieve overall efficiencies by being more efficient themselves.
Stephanie Sullivan is a consultant in the Market Intelligence group for immixGroup. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

 

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