The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implementing a new strategy to better manage its acquisition programs, in particular putting a greater focus on the development of requirements and capabilities, according to Rafael Borras, the under secretary for Management at DHS.

Borras, who took over the chief management job in the spring of 2010, conducted a review that also took account of inputs from the department’s Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), concluding “that the procurement phase of the acquisition cycle from the receipt of requirements through award of contract worked fairly well. However, continued attention is needed on the front end requirements development as well as the back end, the program management phase of the acquisition cycle.”

The modifications to how DHS oversees department-wide acquisitions include introduction of an Integrated Investment Life-Cycle Model that integrates strategy, resources, and capabilities.

“It differs from prior efforts in that it is a formal, repeatable model that will span the DHS enterprise,” Borras tells a House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management. “Presently, operational units plan budgets based on a limited view of mission need. Under the integrated model, DHS will mature its ‘front-end’ strategic phase, thereby providing a broader, enterprise-wide perspective and ensuring our investments address the greatest needs of the department.”

Borras says that DHS is identifying five pilot programs to test its new Integrated Investment Life-Cycle Model.

In the planning phase, DHS is creating a new Strategy Council to oversee the development of mission needs and outcomes. Also in the planning phase, new Functional Coordination Offices are being created, such as Screening, Air Domain Awareness and Law Enforcement, to provide analytical support.

In the programming phase of the acquisition cycle, DHS is creating a Capabilities and Requirements Council that will begin meeting in the fourth quarter of FY ’11 to validate requirements, assess alternatives, examine trade offs and functional needs.

During the budgeting phase DHS will continue to use a Program Review Board to handle resource allocation and budget formulation, including establishing budget priorities.

The existing Acquisition Review Board (ARB), which has authority for whether or not programs pass key milestones such as system design and low-rate production, will become the Investment Review Board, which Borras says will take a “more holistic approach” to the acquisition process.

Borras says that the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) is getting an “institutionalized” role in the acquisition cycle, particularly the Test and Evaluation Group in the ARB process, which means “elevating the role of operational testing to the highest departmental forum on acquisition.” S&T is also helping in concept development and program execution, he says.

Tara O’Toole, under secretary for S&T, says that until recently her directorate had very little involvement in the acquisition process except for the test and evaluation phase “at the back end of the acquisition process.” Last fall S&T created a new office of Acquisition Support to assist DHS’ components in establishing “clear and testable operational requirements at the very beginning of the acquisition process,” she says.

In their role for providing independent test and evaluation, S&T “generally” doing as it should as an “honest broker,” David Maurer, director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues, tells the panel.

And, says Maurer, DHS’ recent moves to bolster its acquisition processes are “good news,” and “show a clear commitment by the department leadership to take these problems head on.” Still, he adds, it is early and DHS “needs to turn plans into concrete action and clearly demonstrate the department is meeting requirements, testing before buying and delivering benefits within promised cost and timeframes.”

Borras says that proposed cuts to DHS management contained in the House version of the FY ’12 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill would have “a significant, if not drastic, impact” on his office’s ability to oversee acquisition. In particular, he points to a $24.2 million cut to a DHS plan to hire 150 new program management office staff, which would be a “blow to our ability to improve our ability to provide good upfront cost estimating to be able to better plan and understand the life-cycle costs of these programs.” Moreover, he says, the proposed management cuts would jeopardize oversight that DHS has instituted in its acquisition processes.