Cover: Joint Requirements Framework for Collaboration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Joint Requirements Framework for Collaboration at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Published Sep 6, 2022

by Suzanne Genc, John Matsumura, William Shelton


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Research Questions

  1. How can DHS leadership and Components determine whether a joint program will fulfill the determined need?
  2. What are the types of joint programs on the jointness spectrum, and what factors should be considered when selecting a type of program?
  3. What are the key considerations for structuring joint programs to maximize their effectiveness?

Researchers created a framework for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine suitability and structuring of joint activities. The framework consists of a decision aid that incorporates the factors that should be considered when forming joint programs and collaborations, a taxonomy of five types of joint programs along the jointness spectrum, a notional tool for selecting program type, and recommendations for structuring joint programs to increase the likelihood of their success.

Joint programs have been initiated for various reasons, and they are not new to the government acquisition process. Congress has the authority to mandate joint program formation and has sometimes done so for the U.S. Department of Defense. Congress could mandate joint program formation in DHS in the future, and Components could benefit from being prepared in the event of congressional mandate. In addition, DHS leadership could mandate joint program formation, or the Joint Requirements Council could recommend engaging in joint activities. Joint program formation has been used to reduce cross-Component rivalry, and joint programs are often intended to improve cost-effectiveness across programs, both during the acquisition process and throughout the life cycle of a system or capability when acquisition needs are aligned. Beyond cost savings, there are other reasons for pursuing joint programs.

Key Findings

  • Program jointness is a spectrum but can be broadly categorized into five types: fully integrated, lead Component–coordinated, single-program shared, confederated, and a hybrid of any of these.
  • Fully integrated programs reduce costs for all participants and distribute risk, but they are harder to execute, can have longer acquisition schedules, can propagate a vulnerability across systems, and create less competition in industry.
  • Lead Component–coordinated programs can reduce costs, but some participants have limited ability to affect final capability, and these programs can propagate a vulnerability across systems and create less competition in industry than other programs.
  • Single-Component shared programs can reduce risk and costs, decrease time to fielding, and remove the need for a program office. But participants can have even less ability to affect final capability than in lead Component–coordinated programs, and these programs can propagate a vulnerability across systems and create less competition in industry than other program types can.
  • Confederated activities allow Components to share risk, but they rarely rise to the level of program.
  • Hybrid programs allow flexibility in design and require cross-Component interaction during acquisition, but design and structure can require more planning than for other types.
  • To structure DHS programs, planners need to understand and document requirements, then establish (and document) policy.


  • Use the framework to help organize the decisionmaking process around joint program formation, beginning with initial conditions to determine whether a joint program even makes sense. Given a demonstrated commonality of mission and need across the many DHS Components, consider the spectrum of joint program types as a way to move forward on acquiring future systems and capabilities.
  • Prioritize the joint program to help it succeed in achieving the intended goal.
  • Ensure that each Component understands its own requirements before exploring development of requirements with other Components and considering whether participation in any joint programs with another Component makes sense.
  • After Components evaluate their own requirements, have each determine whether it has synergy with other Components. First, determine whether a joint program is mandated and whether it serves the best interests of participating Components, then select the type of joint program by examining the degrees of alignment of requirements, resources, schedule, and key performance parameters. Finally, by implementing best practices and addressing policy questions before and during formation of a joint program, DHS can increase the probability of success in joint programs.

This research and analysis were sponsored by the Joint Requirements Council and conducted within the Acquisition and Development Program of the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC).

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.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.