Sharing faces foe in DHS components, says Spires


Organizational boundaries still trump functional similarities in the Homeland Security Department, said its chief information officer, Richard Spires, during a June 29 industry event.

Spires has pushed for information technology centralization at the department through data center and network consolidation, as well as by making some enterprise services mandatory for usage. While speaking in Washington, D.C., before an event sponsored by ACT-IAC, he cited development and testing as a service as an example of the latter.

When it comes to consolidation, Spires said his office has collapsed 99 percent of previous DHS networks into its OneNet initiative, has closed 12 data centers and is working to shut another 12 this year. The department's goal is to shutter 43 data centers by the end of fiscal 2015 in favor of its two new large data centers, one in Clarksville, Va., and the other at the NASA Stennis Space Center, Miss.

"Most people understand what we're trying to do internally, and at a high level they get it. The problem, of course, is when you get down to them and their system and the fact that you're going to be touching them…there's always that fear factor," Spires said.

A DHS enterprise architecture has identified 13 commons mission and business portfolios among departmental components, Spires said, adding that ideally over time all investment spending--not just IT--would be prioritized according to portfolio needs.

"Many people just don't understand the power of a true enterprise architecture," he said.

Spires also said that for now DHS will not put any sensitive data on a public cloud but is open to the possibility.

Homeland Security IT appropriations--including the office of the CIO--have been cut under the House version of the fiscal 2013 appropriations bill, Spires noted, characterizing the outlook for DHS IT spending in the coming year as a wildcard.

"IT's just flat out a wildcard," Spires repeated. The pattern of past years has been for the House to reduce the DHS IT request and for the Senate to be "a little more supportive," but the fact of 2012 being an election year and the threat of sequestration means that it's difficult to make predictions this year, Spires said. Except for one thing: "Undoubtedly" Spires said, "we will have a continuing resolution."

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