eMerge2 emerges from DHS’s melange of management systems

Imagine then, the challenge facing a project
where management had to merge 50 different budgeting systems and 30
separate procurement systems. It would seem impossible, but it is not
entirely without precedent in the private, or the public sector.

Last year, Hewlett-Packard (HP) completed its
merger with Compaq Computer, and integrated offices housing close to
160,000 employees in 200 locations across the globe.

“We’ve been through this process ourselves—HP
and Compaq did the largest merger incorporate history,” said Doug
Norton, director of business development for homeland security at HP,
in an interview.

The process was not without pain, however, as
HP has been telling senior officials at the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS). There were layoffs and other cost-cutting and
consolidation measures.

Public sector woes

When DHS formed in March 2003, it inherited the different systems and cultures of 22 independent agencies.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said
during recent Senate testimony that integrating them all is an
“ambitious, collaborative effort, involving input from employees at all
levels, unions, academia and outside experts to design a modern system
that is mission-centered, fair, effective and flexible.”

The project is known by the acronym
eMerge2—pronounced “emerge squared,” standing for Electronically
Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Effectiveness and
Efficiency. It received about $59 million in funding last year, and is
budgeted for $76 million this year.

As of this writing, a request for proposals (RFP) was expected to be issued shortly, possibly in May or June.

In addition to the HP model, senior DHS
officials are eyeing the success of another recent merger that resulted
in the creation of the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS), as an
agency of the Pentagon. That project merged all the separate accounting
systems of the military services. DFAS was formed initially with 300
databases and 30,000 employees, and had to radically streamline the
organization.

“Today, they’re down to about 18,000
employees, and their goal is to reduce that to 30 databases,” said
Chris Oglesby, vice president for homeland security sales at Electronic
Data Systems. “They’re more than halfway there.”

Vendors and IT consultants tell HSToday
on background that over the five year time span of eMerge2, it is
likely that there will have to be a consolidation of various government
agencies.

“They’re going to have to show the Hill that
they are going to save some money,” said one well-placed executive
source following eMerge2.

How will DHS go about doing that?

The roadmap

DHS started gathering requirements for the
program last December, said David Sonde, president of The Winvale
Group, a government contracting specialist in Washington DC, in an
interview with HSToday.

The Department is now viewing eMerge2 as a “resource transformation initiative,” said Sonde.

The IT consultants Bearing Point and SAIC
have been heavily involved in the requirements-setting phase of the
project. “There’s been a lot of hoopla about that. But DHS has said
they would be fair in choosing the final vendors, and not favor them,”
said Sonde.

The program will consolidate back-office
solutions—financial and accounting systems—by using an array of
Internet technologies.

Carl Herberger, the senior director of
information security professional services, at SunGuard, a software
developer based in Wayne, Pa. said in an interview that Web-based
solutions would be used to move the DHS to a “just-in-time delivery
model.”

That will mean that products and services
will be purchased and delivered only when they’reneeded, saving money
on inventory and related costs.

“They’ll also probably create a single point of access, via the Web, for service delivery,” said Herberger.

Over time, all of DHS will migrate to an
Internet-based computing infrastructure, and away from so-called
“legacy systems,” older computers purchased in the 1980s and 1990s.

To be sure, though, there are possible risks.
Being completely Web-centric can make an organization swift in terms of
response time and mission fulfillment. But it can also leave that
organization vulnerable to Internet-based attacks by hackers with
viruses and Trojan horses, warned Herberger.

“There will probably, I have to believe, be
different protocols used for classified, and unclassified projects,” he
concluded. “But sometimes, that can be a hindrance to getting things
done.” 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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