DHS Contemplates the Cloud for 3rd Try on Financial System

Homeland Security officials confirmed they have nixed a project that was supposed to tie together the department's financial systems, instead opting to consider a smaller network located remotely, in the cloud.

Friday morning, Nextgov reported that DHS yanked the Transformation and Systems Consolidation program, or TASC, after current contractors on existing systems and a Web services company protested a $450 million contract the department awarded to CACI last year.

"Based upon a review and reevaluation of the solicitation, DHS is considering alternatives to meet revised requirements," DHS spokesman Chris Ortman said Friday, referring to the department's decision to stop pursuing a centralized financial, asset and acquisition management system. "The modernization of the department's financial, acquisition and asset systems remains a key priority for DHS."

In March, federal auditors, in siding with one of the protesters, Global Computer Enterprises, a provider of online financial reporting and accounting services, ruled that DHS narrowed system requirements mid-competition without letting vendors submit new proposals. Homeland Security changed directions after the White House directed all agencies halt work on financial systems, a characteristically complex kind of IT project, and either scale back features or cancel the whole operation.

As for future plans, DHS officials said a cloud-based or shared services setup, where multiple agencies share server room in a government or contractor-operated data center, could meet the department's needs. The new model would attempt to connect fewer agencies and fewer tools, just the core financial management functions at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This marks the second time the department, which also recently abandoned a more than $1 billion border virtual fence, has lost money on a failed effort to unify its financial systems. Some lawmakers remain concerned that any future project will falter due to poor planning, no matter whether the system resides in the cloud or in a physical DHS data center.

"Most of the material weaknesses still on the books are related to processes and not systems, and regardless of what decisions DHS makes on how it will integrate its information systems, the underlying processes must be corrected for that system to function properly," Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management, said at a Friday hearing on the department's overall financial management.