WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is seeking confirmation that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to programs that promote cost savings while still meeting the nation’s domestic security needs — specifically pointing to the data center consolidation project at Stennis Space Center and advanced funding for U.S. Coast Guard ship procurement.
Cochran serves on the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee that has conducted a hearing to review President Barack Obama’s FY2015 budget request for the Homeland Security Department. At the hearing, Cochran sought information on the cost savings from several DHS programs that affect Mississippi, including the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage (NCCIPS) at the Stennis Space Center.
“The Homeland Security Department has led the federal government in finding cost savings through the consolidation of data centers, resulting in millions of dollars in annual savings and even greater future savings predicted,” Cochran said. “I hope the department remains committed to seeing this project to its completion, which should improve government performance but also save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Developed over the past decade at that Mississippi Army Ammo Plant at Stennis, the NCCIPS is the primary DHS data center for the initial consolidation of federal data assets. The project, which Cochran has promoted since its inception, is already resulting in annual savings of $17.0 million and could save an estimated $3.0 billion by 2030, according to Cochran. The U.S. Navy, the departments of Transportation and Veterans Affairs and other agencies have chosen to locate critical assets at NCCIPPS.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Cochran at the subcommittee hearing that he believes Congress has provided sufficient funding to complete the consolidation project at Stennis. Congress provided $42.0 million in FY2014 to for DHS data center consolidation. The president’s FY2015 budget did not request new funding.
Cochran also asked Johnson for an update on DHS efforts to coordinate with other organizations to meet cybersecurity threats to the nation. The department, for example, utilizes the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg to address many of its research needs.
“Because the department is still relatively new, it should make up for not having a robust laboratory network of its own by leveraging its resources with other federal laboratories and existing university capabilities. This would save money by not forcing DHS to pay for stand-alone capabilities,” Cochran said.
Under questioning from Cochran, Johnson also acknowledged that budget constraints on the DHS are reflected in the DHS budget request for U.S. Coast Guard procurement and acquisition. The FY2015 budget recommends $1.08 billion for acquisitions and improvements, a 27 percent decrease from FY2014 funding levels. The budget request does, however, include funding to construct the seventh National Security Cutter (NSC) and to begin the procurement of parts for the eighth and final NSC. However, the budget would slow procurement of other ships.
Last year Cochran worked to secure $77.0 million in additional appropriations to support advanced work on NCS #7, resources that will allow Pascagoula shipbuilders to maintain the efficiencies associated with a one-ship-per-year rate of construction and reduce the cost of NSC production.
“With the increasing concerns about border security and protection of our natural resources, the maritime domain’s strategic importance continues to grow,” Cochran said. “I’m pleased with the work of shipbuilders in Mississippi to modernize the U.S. Coast Guard’s aging fleet.”
Since the Coast Guard in 2005 first outlined its minimum baseline need for eight NSCs to meet mission requirements, Cochran has consistently supported funding for long lead time materials for NSC production, which allows for cost-effective contracting. In addition, he has secured report language in successive appropriations bills that support the procurement of one National Security Cutter each year until all eight planned ships are procured.