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Friday, June 29, 2007

Homeland Security outlines plan to consolidate financial systems

The Homeland Security Department plans to consolidate its financial management systems around systems used by two of its component agencies, but overseers are skeptical of the strategy.

Under a recently completed plan, the 22 agencies that make up DHS will move to financial systems based on those in place at the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection, DHS Chief Financial Officer David Norquist said Thursday in Senate testimony.

The department plans for 50 percent of its components to be on consolidated systems by fiscal 2009 and for 97 percent of the department to use one of the two systems by fiscal 2011. After that date, the department will select one system as a baseline.

Small offices like the Office of Health Affairs will shift first, Norquist said, followed by bigger agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Office of Management and Budget has approved the plan. And the initiative appeared to receive qualified endorsements from the Government Accountability Office and the two senators who stayed through a June 29 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management.

In a report released at the hearing, GAO also questioned the selection of TSA and CBP, noting that “they have numerous financial management weaknesses and consequently do not appear to be good candidates to be models for an entity with an annual budget in excess of $40 billion.”

Norquist said the two systems were picked because they are already widely used in DHS, with 37 percent of the department employing one of them. And they are commercially available and supported by multiple vendors, which increases competition, he said. TSA uses a financial management system based on Oracle software, while CBP uses has a system developed by SAP AG that combines finance, accounting and asset management.

Norquist said financial problems at TSA and CBP do not relate to their accounting systems.

-Daniel Friedman, FederalTimes.com

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