HOMELAND SECURITY

New Day Dawning for DHS Acquisitions?

7/1/2008
By Stew Magnuson

Vendors and laboratories frustrated by the way the Department of Homeland Security acquires new technology might find a ray of hope after the arrival of Thomas Cellucci, chief commercialization officer at the science and technology directorate.

Joining the department last September after a career as a venture capitalist and leader of technology companies, Cellucci said it didn’t take him long to figure out where the department had shortcomings.

“It was clear to me in my first hour and a half at DHS that [the department] had problems articulating what it needs,” he told a border security conference in Austin, Texas.

Requirements documents are often full of vague descriptions of what technologies the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol, Secret Service and other DHS agencies need to fulfill their missions, he said. One vendor showing him such a document complained that the solution could be approached in “35 different ways.”

“DHS doesn’t seem to know what it wants,” he said, echoing a common complaint.

Cellucci’s office has produced a “requirements development guide,” which will be mandatory reading for those within DHS who are responsible for procuring new items.

The guide will explain how to write detailed operational requirements and specifications, he said.

Companies and contractors frustrated by DHS’ procurement practices may not see change overnight, he warned.

“It will take time to get DHS acclimated to the rigor and discipline that is required,” he admitted.

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Homeland Security, DHS Policy

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