Senate lays out its first IT strategy

Security and customer service are prominent in the strategic plan, the Senate CIO says.

The Senate’s chief information officer has completed the Senate’s first information technology strategic plan. CIO J. Greg Hanson said the Senate’s decentralized organization makes IT strategic planning especially difficult because the policy must address many different requirements.

“This is all new ground…but I’m optimistic,” he said.

Security and customer service are prominent in the strategic plan, Hanson said.

Security objectives include preparations to support continuity of government operations during emergencies. Senate IT officials will deploy a high-bandwidth, wired infrastructure on the Washington, D.C., campus, Senate relocation sites and state offices. Critical data will be backed up at alternate computing facilities. Senators, committee members and officers will be able to remotely access the network.

Technology experts agree that creating a strategic IT plan for the Senate is difficult. Fred Thompson, practice director for e-government at Unisys and former assistant director of consulting and marketing in the Treasury Department’s Office of the CIO, said the Senate is a tough environment for creating a strategic plan, but “it’s a critical thing to have happen.”

Thompson praised the Senate for prioritizing security and customer service. “If you work there, you see that the focus on constituent services is critical and so is the ability to get information [quickly and accurately] from Congressional Research Service reports and Government Accountability Office reports,” he said. Policy decisions depend on this background information, he added.

Bruce McConnell, president of consulting firm McConnell International, said the Senate plan is potentially expensive. Hanson’s staff must address the challenge of a nationwide but relatively small user base, with small offices in each state, McConnell said.

He said Senate IT officials should create secure nodes on a virtual private network and let the Internet carry traffic, perhaps with a standard interconnect package for reaching senators’ local offices.

He warned against using the same network for Senate emergency operations and constituent services. “That’s asking for a whole lot of trouble,” he said.

McConnell said he supported the Senate’s intention to open the strategic planning document for two-way collaboration on revisions. “This demonstrates best-practices thinking in the systems development world,” he said.

The 20-page document, which Hanson said will appear on the Senate’s intranet, is a two-year plan that Senate IT officials will update annually.

“Technology changes so fast that it’s important to revisit and rewrite the plan on an annual basis,” Hanson said. When revising the plan, he said, he will invite members of CIO organization, senators, systems administrators and Senate staff committee members to comment and offer suggestions via online discussions.


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