Executive branch reorganization pushes DHS to find IT efficiencies

At the top of the list: "SOCs and NOCs."
(Department of Homeland Security / Flickr)

Executive branch reorganization orders laid out by the White House have led the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO team to seek out efficiencies that can be gained in the department’s IT.

DHS responded to the March reorganization executive order by creating an Organizational Effectiveness Working Group over the summer to solicit feedback from industry and the public. From that came a series of priorities from the Office of the CIO for cutting waste and boosting effectiveness, senior DHS officials explained Wednesday.

“What we’ve now done is we went back and as the CIO group we’ve said OK, out of those, we’re going to start our own reform initiatives,” said DHS senior adviser Barry West.

Acting DHS CIO Steven Rice and his team, including West, tasked the various component-level CIOs — like those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration — work with them to research and analyze areas they can do better in.


“The challenge that we’re talking about is how to make sure that we’re all on the same sheet of music with how we want to drive efficiency, how do we want to make sure that we’re using those resources in a more effective way?” acting CIO Steven Rice said Thursday at AFCEA’s Homeland Security Conference.

At the top of that list, said West, is consolidating the department’s security and network operations centers, what he called “SOCs and NOCs.”

“Why do you have nine SOCs and NOCs? Why are some working seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and others are barely open? Why do some of the components not even have a security operations center?” West said. This initiative also “ties right in to the cybersecurity executive order,” he said.

In no order in particular, Rice and West listed off the additional top priorities for improvement that made the cut: category management; the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program; migration to Microsoft Windows 10 and Office 365 as well as a central mobile device management platform; the department’s wide area network OneNet; and data center optimization.

In each of those areas, said West, “We’ve got to do a better job.”


Those priorities are “pennies on an IT organization,” Rice said. “We have to make sure that everybody is pulling in the same direction.”

For instance, he explained, the move to Windows 10 “is easy. But wearing the department hat, if one component doesn’t get it done, that’s a security risk to the entire department.”

Essentially, this executive order, though not explicitly IT-related, “forces the business conversation about how do you transform the user experience … how do you demonstrate efficiency?” Rice said.

And sometimes it boils down to one simple rule, he said. “If there’s more than two of anything, they either need to be redundant or turned off.”

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