Putnam: Amending Clinger-Cohen

With the growing severity of the threats facing government computer systems today, federal agencies need to ensure that security is fully integrated into every system being deployed. In the past, many decisions regarding the acquisition of information technology goods and services have been driven by the functionality component of the product without regard to security. Today, we must include security as a key element of that important process.

That is why I introduced H.R. 4570, a bill that amends the Clinger-Cohen Act to explicitly require federal agencies to emphasize information security from the earliest possible stages of a new system's IT capital planning and investment decision-making process.

The genesis for the bill evolved out of a recommendation made by the Corporate Information Security Working Group — a group of business, academic and industry leaders that I convened for advice on IT security issues. H.R. 4570 is an important step in my continued efforts to improve information security at federal agencies.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 affirmatively acknowledged the importance of IT investment management in the federal government. However, much has changed in the world since the enactment of Clinger-Cohen in 1996. The threat climate is increasingly dangerous, and cybersecurity is an integral element of threat management for federal agencies.

As a result of increased awareness of the critical need for adequate information security in the federal government, Congress passed the Government Information Security Reform Act and its successor, the Federal Information Security Management Act, to improve the information security of the computer networks that support federal agencies. FISMA explicitly requires agency planning for information security needs throughout the life cycle of a system and compliance with mandatory standards and benchmarks developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The minimum security configuration requirement in FISMA demands that information security be "baked" into any systems that agencies deploy.

These requirements, however, need to be integrated into IT acquisitions through the IT capital planning and investment decision-making process. Furthermore, officials from the Office of Management and Budget have instructed agencies through their budget guidance that information security must be a vital part of the capital planning and investment control process.

It's time to amend Clinger-Cohen to permanently move in this direction. H.R. 4570 will ensure that the law reflects the current threat environment in cyberspace and require that information security be an integral part of the federal acquisition process for the long term.

H.R. 4570 is a modest yet important step in focusing attention on the essential nature of information security for federal computer networks. It will provide the Office of Management and Budget and agency leaders with explicit guidance related to information security and the IT capital planning process. This measure will be catalytic in producing more secure federal agency computer networks and greater protection for the information assets they contain.

Putnam (R-Fla.) is chairman of the Government Reform Committee's Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census Subcommittee.

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