The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) component is focusing its IT modernization efforts on improving cybersecurity and customer experience, the agency’s top tech official said this week.


“My job is to make sure that I can provide secure and reliable IT services and capabilities anywhere, anytime, and at the speed of CBP’s 24/7 mission nationally and across the globe,” said Sonny Bhagowalia, CBP’s CIO and assistant commissioner for the Office of Information and Technology, at FCW’s IT Modernization Summit on October 5


“At the end of the day, it’s about our officers, analysts, and mission agents in the field to make sure that we can provide them with everything that they need at their fingertips,” he said. “I think that is absolutely the key… because the threat evolves every day, the mission evolves every day, the scale and level of challenges evolve every day.”


A critical phase in CBP’s modernization strategy, he explained, is the agency’s focus on innovation and cybersecurity. As part of that effort, CBP is accelerating its transition to cloud-based services and optimizing data center operations to adhere to the Federal government’s Cloud Smart strategy.


The agency – through guidance from the Federal Information Security Modernization Act and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework – aims to identify, protect, detect, react, and recover from potential cyberattacks.


He said that agency modernization goals include “reducing application outages, faster deployments with capabilities, faster processing time, and access to key information in real-time, so we can make that decision anywhere, anytime with minimal disruption. Those are the kinds of things that I think we have to do and are essential to the mission.”


In addition, CBP wants its modernization efforts to lead to improved customer experience and continuous measurements of value. Moving forward, Bhagowalia said, CBP will focus on improving customer satisfaction, enhancing cloud and security, and executing on efficient funding and acquisition.  


“The mission leads IT, that is key,” Bhagowalia said. “As we put all that together, we are putting together a very thoughtful methodical [strategy] but always knowing that we’ve got to work at tactical scale.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.