DHS FY 2016 IT Budget Request Snapshot

Published: February 18, 2015


A couple of weeks ago the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request, the earliest budget release in recent memory. In our typical fashion we quickly pulled out the high points of the top departments to get a sense of the overall budget picture and key priorities. In this entry I want to look a focus on bit more closely at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and specifically its proposed information technology (IT) budget.

The release of the federal FY 2016 budget request provided an opportunity for some broad observations and data points on the discretionary budget picture to get an immediate sense of direction and priority across the top departments, including information technology. Going a little deeper into the DHS IT budget provides a sense of the highest priorities and where the agencies are seeking to direct their dollars in the next fiscal year.

DHS IT and New Development Budgets

To begin with, a basic slice of the DHS IT budget identifies how the department is allocating its $6.2B in proposed budget across the directorates. Their overall $6.2B IT budget would be 4% above the FY 2015 level of $5.9B and $181M (3%) over the $6.0B for FY 2014.  The up-down-up movement of the yearly IT budget speaks to the recent budget environment where economizing is key and uncertainty is ever present.  

The year-to-year changes for the various agencies and directorates are fairly diverse, ranging from -27% to +14%. (See table below.) Further, looking at the portion of each agency’s allocation for new development spending, known as Development, Modernization and Enhancement (DME), also has a wide variety in change from 2015 to 2016. Note that growth or decline in agency total IT budget does not always correspond to the same direction or magnitude in DME spending, e.g. the TSA, FEMA, and CPB IT budgets.  In the case of ICE, a 13.8% overall increase comes with a 116% increase in DME.


Noteworthy IT Programs

Examining the details of DHS’s IT investments and initiatives gives deeper insight.  Here are just five initiatives that stand out among others due to relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending.

  • CBP Infrastructure – This IT infrastructure program is the backbone that supports all of CBP's IT systems and is the largest single budget line item among DHS’s 347 IT investments. The FY 2016 total allocation of $485M, up a modest $5M from FY 2015 enacted level but down $10M from FY 2014. This investment is 100% O&M spending
  • NPPD National Cybersecurity & Protection System (NCPS) – The National Cyber Security Division, through its National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS), protects the Federal civilian departments and agencies IT infrastructure from cyber threats. At $464M for FY 2016, not only is NCPS DHS’s second largest single IT budget line, it also receives the largest year-to-year budget increase of more than $88M (+23%) from FY 2015. Further, 20% of this investment is slated for DME.
  • CBP Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) Systems Program – NII technologies support the detection and prevention of contraband, including drugs, currency, and other illegal merchandise, from entering the United States, while having a minimal impact on the flow of legitimate commerce. NII receives the largest DME increase for FY 2016 of $73M, compared to $15M for FY 2015. This DME boost, plus $12M in additional O&M, helps push NII from $124M in FY 2015 to $209M (+69%) for FY 2016, making it DHS’s fourth largest IT investment.
  • USCIS Transformation – USCIS has embarked on a multi-year enterprise-wide Transformation Investment that is transitioning the agency from a fragmented, paper-based environment to a paperless, centralized environment, utilizing electronic processing for adjudication. At $181M for FY 2016, this investment is another of DHS’s “top ten” largest IT investments and receives a 2% budget increase of about $4M from FY 2015. Also, it is among the highest percentage DME among the top ten programs at 83%.
  • NPPD OBIM 1.0 – New for FY 2016, The Office of Biometric Identity Management’s (OBIM), formerly US-VISIT, investment is for the design, development and implementation of a replacement biometric system to ensure OBIM biometric receive-match-store-analyze-share capabilities can continue to be provided to DHS. It receives $68M in initial funding with 99% of this going toward DME activities.

After seeing the total IT budget flatten from $6.0B to $5.9B (-1%) from FY 2014 to FY 2015, the DHS IT budget for FY 2016 has rebounded nearly $250M to just over $6.2B. Further, overall DME spending for FY 2016 is up 8% from the previous year, suggesting high-priority development programs may present new business opportunities in key investment areas.