A procurement system grows in Washington

Significant organizations without supportincluded the Science and Technology Directorate, the InformationAnalysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, all of thesecretarial offices—including the Office of the Chief InformationOfficer—and the US-VISIT program.

Greg Rothwell, DHS chief procurement officer, told HSToday that he’s working to alleviate the problems.

“One of my first priorities was to create aneighth procurement office, the Office of Procurement Operations (OPO),to fill this void,” Rothwell said. “This office is responsible forsupporting approximately 35 different organizations in order to acquirean estimated $1.7 billion in mission-essential supplies and services.”

Rothwell’s office established the OPO withone full-time employee in fiscal 2004. It now employs 24 procurementspecialists, and Rothwell hopes it will grow to 127 by the end offiscal 2005. The ultimate goal is to have 220 full-time employees byfiscal 2006.

Rothwell also welcomed the addition of adeputy chief procurement officer in October, when DHS promoted ElaineC. Duke from deputy assistant administrator for acquisition at theTransportation Security Administration (TSA). Prior to that she hadserved many years as a Navy acquisition officer.

“To satisfy critical mission needs, thedepartment has relied on other government agencies to perform its basicacquisition functions far more than we would prefer,” Rothwell said.“Additionally, in those instances where in-house support is provided,we haven’t always been able to perform at the desired level, meaningthat there has been some degradation in timeliness and customersupport.”

To address this “less-than-optimum support,”the office of the chief procurement officer has received authorizationto move forward with additional hiring and other innovations.

Information technology acquisition

Ashley Lewis, director of acquisition policyand oversight in the office of the chief procurement officer, toldHSToday that the procurement office plans to consolidate all DHSinformation technology (IT) acquisitions under a contracting officecalled the Information Technology Acquisition Center (ITAC), which willbe the department’s one-stop shop for all IT purchases.

“The establishment of ITAC represents anenterprise-wide transition toward developing, implementing, andmanaging a consolidated IT procurement capability that supports thecross-organizational missions of protecting the homeland, deterringcrime, detecting and countering, and the myriad of otherresponsibilities for the participant components,” Lewis said.

The procurement office intends to open ITACsome time in fiscal 2005, and it should achieve full operational statusin fiscal 2006. ITAC personnel will come from OPO. Rothwell appointedDan McLaughlin as acting director of the center, while the chief’sprocurement office starts up ITAC operations.

The creation of ITAC will improve thedepartment’s ability to capitalize on savings from bulk purchases,including software licenses and hardware, according to Lewis. It willalso have the indirect impact of standardizing equipment across thedepartment. Bulk purchases are expected to reduce the number of vendorsinvolved in the department’s computer technology.

Vendors should expect to benefit from ITAC aswell, because they’ll be able to do all their marketing to a singlepoint. As for the impact on current contracts, Lewis said that this “iscurrently being assessed and will depend on the goods and/or servicesbeing provided by each contract.”

One face

Much of the chief procurement office’s workduring fiscal 2004 centered on the concept of presenting “One Face toIndustry.” The concept aims to consolidate as many DHS acquisitionsystems as possible—specifically, the ones that came to DHS with theirown procurement systems. These were TSA, Customs and Border Protection,the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, the CoastGuard, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Much remains to be done, and oversight is achallenge. DHS Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin told a House panel inMarch that better management controls were required for DHS contractoversight.

“In addition, the chief procurement officerhas not been granted the authority to realign existing procurementresources to meet the procurement service needs of all 22 componentsbetter,” Ervin said. “Under these circumstances, the department hasstruggled to prepare a detailed and accurate listing of its procurementuniverse.”

Ervin specifically pointed to TSA and FEMA asagencies that could benefit from centralized management, because hesaid they have had inadequate contract oversight during the pastseveral years.

But oversight is only one of many challengesfacing Rothwell as he shapes a single procurement structure for thevast department. He has designed many of the CPO’s initiatives tosupport the “One Face” concept. Rothwell said he has been assured ofhigh-level support for his activities in the department.

He’s going to need it. As Deputy SecretaryJames Loy told the House Select Homeland Security Committee last May:“Never before have we witnessed a full-scale government divestiture,merger, acquisition and startup all coming together at once —certainlynot on this scale.” If Rothwell can meet that challenge and come upwith a workable DHS procurement system, he will certainly go down as aseminal figure in the annals of government management. HST

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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