ICE adjusts approach to IT vendors, workforce

Tuesday - 6/14/2011, 10:24pm EDT

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Luke McCormack, the chief information officer of the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a big fan of the Obama administration's Mythbusters campaign.

McCormack said ICE has not done a good job over the years in how they communicate their needs and requirements to industry. And with major changes to ICE's governance and overall approach to technology projects, McCormack is promising more discussions and interactions with vendors.

"We are transforming our organization. We are going to this dynamic capability, and one of the things we will not do in the future is ask for battleships," McCormack said. "We will ask for cigarette boats. This is the small, agile, quick time to market type of environment we are getting into. We want our vendor community, large and small, to position themselves and know over time that is how you are going to see the ask come out of this agency--more small, refined, very calculated so we can have that time to market we are so interested in having."

And along those same lines, McCormack said the number of contractors his office relies on will decrease as well. Right now, he said it's about a 65-35 or 70-30 split contractors to federal employees. He would like to see that ratio drop to 50-50.

"As we work with the vendor community and talk to them about this all the time, they want to see a strong federal workforce," he said. "They want to make sure they have a good project management team in place that they can escalate issues to and get decisions made. It makes sense for us to do that for several reasons."

He added that as ICE transforms through the Office of Management and Budget's 25-point IT reform plan, the balanced workforce becomes even more important.

Currently, ICE has about 380 federal employees in the IT office and an IT budget of about $600 million, made up of about two-third operations and maintenance and one-third development and enhancements.

McCormack said the transformation of ICE's technology infrastructure is buoyed by cloud computing. ICE is moving its data center to the DHS private cloud, and will move its Web content and email to the cloud. The agency also is looking at SharePoint-as-a-service as well as putting its file servers and storage in a private cloud.

"We are buying data center as a service," he said. "It's more of a commodity type of service. Once we get into that type of environment, we can get into dynamic computing. No longer do we have to go through an entire procurement to buy a box, engineer it, implement it and buy licenses. We can just buy that computing capability almost by the drink, and that's a very powerful capability for us to do that."

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