Congressman Hurd flashes IT oversight muscle at DHS

In his new two-page bill, the Department of Homeland Security IT Duplication Reduction Act, Congressman Will Hurd is calling on the DHS chief information office...

C ongressman Will Hurd is flexing his technology background.

First, the freshman Republican from Texas took the reins of the new Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on IT, where his priorities include cybersecurity, privacy and how best to bring emerging technologies into the government.

Now, he’s focusing on the Homeland Security Department.

In his new two-page bill, the Department of Homeland Security IT Duplication Reduction Act, Hurd is calling on the DHS chief information officer to reduce the number of IT systems. He said FEMA alone has more than 600 IT systems.

“Call me crazy, but it just doesn’t make sense to have one agency using multiple IT systems that do the same thing. That’s a ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars,” Hurd said in a statement.

The bill would require the DHS CIO to submit a report to the House and Senate oversight committees that details the number of IT systems, an assessment of the number of systems that are duplicative, and a strategy for reducing the redundant systems and how much cost savings or cost avoidance is possible.

DHS IT duplication is not a new issue. Former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano set up efficiency review boards to address this and similar issues.

From that, former DHS CIO Richard Spires and current CIO Luke McCormack have been taking specific actions to reduce the IT overlap.

Spires, for example, consolidated DHS data centers down to two and offered a series of services, including email-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service and computing-as-a-service.

McCormack is continuing many of those initiatives. He said at the recent AFCEA Homeland Security Conference that DHS is making progress to reduce the number of its learning management systems under its HR IT initiative. DHS found components are managing more than 130 human-resources systems, including more than nine learning management systems on a daily basis.

“We actually have gone to initial operating capability with [the learning management system] and that has been in place for some time. We have the capability up and running so we are going through the process of starting to migrate the various components to that end-state configuration,” McCormack said in a recent interview. “We will get the learning management and then the performance management under our belt, and then we will go back through the architecture and look at where our next set of opportunities are.”

Hurd’s bill was one of seven from freshmen on the Homeland Security Committee to introduce DHS oversight bills. The bills address a range of issues from Freedom of Information Act efficiency to border security technology.

One other bill worth mentioning is the Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act.

In Rep. Mark Walker’s (R-N.C.) legislation, the DHS secretary would have to submit a report to the congressional committees listing current plans, assessing the agency’s office space needs and a plan for the St. Elizabeth’s consolidation initiative, which includes estimated costs and schedule, as well as potential savings.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s headquarters consolidation project has been mismanaged, skyrocketing past its cost and completion estimates,” Walker said in a release. “This bill will fully codify the recommendations outlined by the Government Accountability Office and provide improved management of the project and increased transparency to the American people.”

Of course, many of the problems with the St. E’s project can be traced back to repeated program funding cuts or underfunding by Congress.

In September, House Homeland Security Committee members debated the future of the program, but GAO found the funding gap between what was requested and what was received from 2009 through 2014 was more than $1.6 billion. This post is part of Jason Miller’s Inside the Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jason’s Notebook.

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