U.S. security effort could be as draining as Y2K

Federal agencies have spent more than a year diverting funds and staff for numerous information technology programs to fix Year 2000 computer problems. Federal security officials said yesterday that the same drain on IT budgets has begun as agencies attempt to comply with a presidential directive to protect their critical computer systems.

A tight budget has been one of the main concerns at the Energy Department as it tries to develop a critical infrastructure plan, said Ray Holmer, classified information systems security program manager at DOE.

"Right now all of the money going to critical infrastructure protection is being taken from other programs," Holmer said yesterday at the Virtual Government '99 conference.

In 1996 President Clinton established the Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection to develop a national plan to protect key services the nation relies on, including telecommunications, banking and finance, electric power, transportation, gas and oil, emergency services and government services. In May 1998 the commission became the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, which now leads and coordinates all government and private-sector efforts to develop the plan.

The General Services Administration's Office of Information Security (OIS), the lead for the federal initiative under the plan, is working with the Chief Information Officers Council and the Office of Management and Budget to build into the next budget cycle funding for protecting agencies' critical infrastructures, said Tom Burke, OIS assistant commissioner.

Jeffrey Hunker, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, said Congress and OMB should consider funding critical infrastructure protection over a number of years, instead of funding a one-time appropriation. Hunker's office is coordinating the national critical infrastructure protection effort and will work with GSA and the CIO Council to persuade Congress and OMB to include funds in the appropriations process, he said.

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