Immigration Agency Wants to Blend Data Science, Agile and Security

Panchenko Vladimir/

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wants information about applying agile development to big data, analytics and machine learning.

DevOps, meet DevSecOps. 

The Homeland Security Department is looking beyond the buzzy "DevOps" management approach—blending the software development and the operations staff to encourage closer collaboration—to "DevSecOps," which throws security teams into that mix. A more conventional approach might keep these groups separate until shortly before the product launch. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is investigating DevSecOps services, as well as agile development, a methodology that breaks large projects into smaller chunks that are tested every few weeks. The department's request for information asks vendors to explain how they apply DevSecOps to fields like big data, analytics and machine learning, including neural networks and artificial intelligence. 

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

The request noted vendors would eventually be tasked with applying that technology and management approach to systems in cloud environments, including those provided by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. In the future, new DevSecOps-themed contracts or contracting vehicles could help other parts of DHS use this approach, the RFI said. 

In the RFI, vendors are asked to describe the complexity and number of IT projects they've worked on, their experience with data science, analytics and agile processes, and their experience with various programming languages, among other skills. 

USCIS has tried newer project management methodologies before. In 2012, the agency formally adopted the agile methodology to advance its Transformation Program, which involved an electronic application tracking system, according to the Government Accountability Office. The myUSCIS system, an online portal for immigration services, also tapped vendors skilled in agile development.

But the transition hasn't been seamless. A 2016 GAO report dinged USCIS for straying from "the underlying practices and principles" of agile development—for example, failing to require continuous testing—when creating its Electronic Immigration System.