DHS gets mixed reviews on IT modernization

The agency is seeing uneven results on two of its most important efforts, cloud migration and data center consolidation, according to a new agency watchdog report.

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Although the Department of Homeland Security is making some progress on IT modernization, the agency is seeing uneven results on two of its most important efforts, cloud migration and data center consolidation, according to a new agency watchdog report.

Some of component agencies, said the DHS Office of Inspector General in a new audit of the agency's IT systems, have lagged in adopting cloud capabilities, while others are aggressively moving ahead. DHS has also been sluggish in modernizing one of its two big data centers, it said.

The result, according to the DHS OIG report issued on Aug. 13, is the agency still has some old IT that supports some crucial mission-critical systems.

The report recommended the agency's CIO shop with its components to finalize its data center migration approach, as well as develop department-wide guidance for cloud migration for legacy IT systems.

It also recommended the CIO begin to set risk ratings for major IT investments as required under the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).

DHS concurred with the report's recommendations, and in reply comments, the agency noted that it had set up a working capital fund consistent with the Modernizing Government Technology Act, and distribution of funds are overseen by the CIO and the chief financial officer.

The reply comments also noted that the agency set up a Cloud Action Officer (CAO) forum in 2018 and a cloud solutions platform to support cloud migrations.

The OIG said the actions, particularly the creation of the CAO forum, were "positive steps" for DHS cloud migration, but said it would keep its recommendation open until the agency develops and distributes formal department-wide guidance on cloud adoption and legacy IT cloud migration.

The OIG said that although DHS has been working hard to get its components in line with cloud migration, some efforts are less than optimal. For instance, it said although migration goals were being met, many were simple system "lift and shift" without any modernization or optimization to leverage the cloud environment.

The report said that DHS officials reported approximately 41% of seven operational components' systems were migrated to the cloud; but, only about 24% of these systems were actually operational in the cloud.

DHS, according to the report, is also making progress with data center consolidation, but it's half done with some of the biggest projects in the area.

DHS' move to modernize its two data centers in Mississippi and Virginia were moving along, but the agency's Data Center 2 in Clarksville, Va. faces "challenges."

The agency, said the report, has optimized its DC1 data center in Stennis, Miss. The plan to modernize the DC2 location, however, has been extended. It had planned to move the DC2 operations to the DC1 center in Mississippi by June, 2020. In July, however, DHS extended its contract with Perspecta, which manages the facility, for up to three more years.

The OIG was optimistic DHS' efforts on FITARA IT risk management reporting. DHS said it had "reconstructed" its approach to the reports. Beginning in June, the agency said the OCIO began submitting IT program risk ratings, including ratings for legacy systems, to the Federal IT Dashboard. The report called the reporting a "positive step" for DHS.