EIS telecom contract can help DHS modernize IT overall, CIO says

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John Zangardi wants to change the way the Department of Homeland Security approaches its technology culture, and he thinks leveraging a $50 billion telecommunications contract might be a good place to start.

The DHS CIO said Thursday that he wants to use the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract as a vehicle to help overhaul the agency’s aging IT infrastructure and has established an EIS program office to oversee the transformation.

“Old IT, older operating systems will kill you. It makes you vulnerable and they’re everywhere,” he said, speaking at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit. “As we move out into the future with [Internet of Things devices], it’s going to be greater in an even greater capacity.”

Because DHS oversees 22 component agencies, Zangardi said the tendency has been for those agencies to procure unique systems and software aligned to their missions, but potentially expanding the cyberattack surface of the enterprise. That’s where EIS comes in.

The General Services Administration awarded the contract to 10 vendors last fall, giving agencies until a 2020 deadline to implement the new vehicle and acquire updated telecommunications technology designed to shrink the attack surface with a small measure of standardization.

Zangardi said EIS opens the door for DHS to modernize its IT systems while providing somewhat of a baseline for the technology it will adopt. But for implementation to be successful, he said that the component agencies have to be in on the technology conversation.

“We are going to leverage the GSA vehicle EIS to award in the second or third quarter of 2019,” he said. “The objective here is to modernize through that vehicle and get to a better network for voice and data. We have to change the infrastructure we’re on, it is old. We have to do it in a way that’s inclusive of the whole department.”

Zangardi added that he is working with the DHS Deputy’s Management Action Group — which is composed of acting deputy secretary Claire Grady and the deputies of the component agencies — on implementation plans and there is funding in the fiscal 2020 agency budget to instigate modernization efforts using EIS.

Aiding those efforts is an EIS PMO that Zangardi has established inside the CIO’s office and is currently staffing to shepherd the DHS enterprise through implementation.

“This organization is going to work across DHS to build out our requirements,” he said. “It’s going to lead the charge to get the ethernet, it’s going to work on the charge to get me better connectivity and speed, it’s going to modernize my network to get me software-defined networking, we’re going to look at virtualizing endpoints, improving network resilience and trying to lower costs.”

The aim is to start building DHS’s modern network from the ground up when the EIS contract comes online in 2020, Zangardi said.

“We are really going to try and make this network state of the art and world class,” he said.

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Billington Cybersecurity Summit, CIO, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), EIS, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, General Services Administration (GSA), IT Modernization, John Zangardi, telecommunications