Senate to feds: Move quicker on infrastructure protection

Faced with a growing number of threats to the nation's critical infrastructure, Senate leaders on Wednesday said they would start demanding results from government and private-sector attempts to protect critical information systems, including urging the Clinton administration to make funding such initiatives a high priority.

The entire country is in a vulnerable position and steps must be taken immediately to move forward on critical infrastructure protection plans, said John Kyl (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Technology, Terrorism and Government Information Judiciary Subcommittee, during a hearing Wednesday that examined the adequacy of government infrastructure protection plans.

The Senate's focus on critical infrastructure protection comes on the heels of a General Accounting Office report that uncovered significant computer security weaknesses at 22 of the largest federal agencies. The report also concluded that private industry is not moving as quickly as it could to correct its own security problems. Making matters worse, the federal plan to address critical infrastructure protection problems will not be completed until at least the end of this month, according to GAO.

The National Plan for Information Systems Protection, under development at the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, is intended to be a starting point for federal agencies on how to best tackle information security issues. While recognizing the challenge involved in completing the document, Kyl urged John Tritak, director of the CAIO, to finish the National Plan as soon as possible.

"We are dealing with a very significant national security issue here," Kyl said.The first step will be to urge compliance with suggestions made by Jack Brock, director of Governmentwide and Defense Information Systems at the Accounting and Information Management Division at GAO, Kyl said. These suggestions include developing clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all the entities involved in the security and protection effort.

Kyl also plans to recommend that the Senate Governmental Affairs committee bring in officials from each agency to outline their security plans and to work with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and GAO to write a letter to President Clinton and the Office of Management and Budget urging extra funding for federal security initiatives.

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