Cover: An Analytic Inventory of DHS Headquarters Business Processes

An Analytic Inventory of DHS Headquarters Business Processes

Published Apr 24, 2019

by Jeffrey B. Wenger, R. Kekoa Koehler, Henry H. Willis


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Research Questions

  1. What definition of analytic capability should be followed to operationalize the analysis of such capabilities?
  2. What are the decision points at which analytic inputs are required within DHS-HQ business processes?
  3. What analytic tools are currently in use in support of DHS-HQ business processes?
  4. What potential improvements would benefit integrated business processes, data analytics, and collaboration for DHS?

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters (DHS-HQ) is developing an Analytic Agenda that defines key actions that DHS-HQ organizations will take in decisionmaking processes. Accordingly, the Analytic Agenda calls for an inventory of decision support analytics and corresponding analytic capabilities within DHS-HQ.

A lack of systematic data analytic processes within DHS-HQ precluded the development of a searchable, updatable database of analytic tools. However, this inventory of capabilities supporting DHS component business processes serves as a benchmark for evaluating DHS-HQ analytic maturity and provides strategic direction for improvement. Additionally, it provides a strategic direction for DHS-HQ to improve the data collection and data manipulation of the predominately document-driven process of strategy, requirements development, acquisition program accountability, and risk analysis and evaluation.

This report also helps advance the Analytic Agenda by providing a clear and functional working definition of an analytic capability, documenting the decision points at which analytic inputs are required within DHS-HQ business processes, listing and describing the analytic tools that are currently used in DHS-HQ business processes, and identifying potential improvements in business processes, data analytics, and collaboration for DHS.

Key Findings

DHS-HQ data are predominately unstructured

  • In general, many of the analytic tools used by DHS business process owners are either documents that contain narrative descriptions of strategy, program risk, or operational requirements, or spreadsheets that contain information about staffing, budgets, program costs, or outputs.

Demand for analysis at DHS-HQ is high

  • Elements of the analytic inventory (analytic capability, data culture, data management, systems and technology, and data governance) reflect a lack of maturity.
  • Much analysis at DHS-HQ is document-based, requiring analysts to extract meaning from free text and analyze whether a prescribed course of action will achieve its goals. This approach is a type of predictive analytics.
  • Predictive analyses often lack replicability and analysts may not be able to assess whether their predictions are valid. They are also highly compartmentalized among the DHS-HQ business process owners, as opposed to being DHS enterprisewide capabilities.
  • DHS enterprisewide capabilities consist of disparate systems and groups, with data management occurring at the individual organization level (rather than at the enterprise systems level), and are of highly variable data quality.
  • Consequently, while there is variation across the DHS-HQ business offices, analytics at DHS-HQ reflect some aspects of maturity. However, they are not easily replicable nor is this approach to predictive analytics likely to be highly reliable.


  • The current Analytic Agenda calls for further maturation of DHS-HQ analytic capabilities.
  • The Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans and the Joint Requirements Council would benefit from adopting more extensive use of SharePoint or another document collaboration software to allow multiparty processing of documents and develop repositories that are easily accessible to all authorized parties — and more structure in the highly unstructured data currently in use.
  • It would be beneficial to standardize (to the extent possible) certain documents or conduct a systematic qualitative analysis of detailed documents that serve as the main inputs into the current analytic process when staffing and software are available.
  • The Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management and the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation would likely benefit from producing fewer siloed analyses by providing for more collaborative systems, providing mechanisms for data-sharing of on-demand data requested from components.
  • By providing better platforms for sharing information and analytic tools and methods, promoting transparency and replicability in analysis, and improving the quality of much of the highly unstructured data available to DHS-HQ employees, DHS would go a long way toward fulfilling its Analytic Agenda objectives and executing its crucial mission for the United States.

This research was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Policy, Strategy, and Analysis and conducted within the Strategy, Policy, and Operations Program of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) operated by the RAND Corporation under contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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