Transitioning Joint Requirements to Joint Acquisitions

Research Questions

  1. Why has DHS struggled with the transition from jointly defined requirements into joint acquisition programs?
  2. How can the department improve its guidance to help future efforts?

From its inception, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has attempted to better integrate its operational components into a cohesive unity of effort. These attempts have included both the encouragement of jointly acquiring capabilities and the creation of a joint requirements process. The goal of both efforts is to reduce costs and ensure commonality during joint operations. However, DHS has not always realized these benefits, in part because it has struggled with translating its jointly defined requirements into joint acquisition programs. In this report, a researcher assesses why DHS has struggled with this transition and makes recommendations for guidance to help future efforts.

The author sought to answer this question by referencing both current DHS policy and the experiences of recent joint programs. He began by reviewing current DHS policies and processes to understand how they address transitioning joint requirements to joint acquisitions. He then reviewed four joint DHS acquisitions efforts, each with its own approach to managing the challenges of jointness. He reviewed requirements and acquisition documents from these programs, as well as government reviews of them. He also spoke with DHS officials familiar with these programs, from both the components and DHS headquarters.

Key Finding

  • Three common challenges with the DHS guidance and approaches frustrate DHS’s ability to translate joint requirements into joint acquisitions: lack of timely acquisition planning, need for additional guidance on jointness, and lack of sufficient executive leadership.


  • The Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management and the Joint Requirements Council could collaborate on joint acquisition guidance.
  • The Joint Requirements Council could develop specific joint requirements guidance.
  • The Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management could improve pre–Acquisition Decision Event 1 acquisition guidance.

This research was sponsored by the DHS Office of Program Accountability and Risk Management and conducted in the Management, Technology, and Capabilities Program of the RAND Homeland Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation 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.

The RAND Corporation 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.

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