Trusted at Treasury
- By Judi Hasson
- Jul 17, 2000
Don Hagerling doesn't wear a uniform. His basement office at the Treasury
Department is nonthreatening — no cameras, monitors or metal detectors,
not even a sign-in sheet for visitors.
But don't be deceived. Hagerling is Treasury's top cop — the program
manager for information systems security. He's in charge of making sure
the systems are buttoned down tight at the U.S. Customs Service; the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Internal Revenue Service; the Secret
Service; the U.S. Mint and every other wing of the vast monetary operation
known as Treasury.
Although Treasury has not been hit with hacker- generated viruses such as
the "love bug," Hagerling knows that any computer system can be hacked,
even here, where the sophisticated computer systems are self- contained
and reputedly impenetrable. He also knows that a "trusted security system"
is the kind that works. That means you're sure beyond a doubt who you are
communicating with and can protect the connection if necessary.
Hagerling, 48, said security is achieved at the expense of utility. If you
hook more computers together to make the network more powerful, security
gets weaker. "The only reason all the computers in the world don't go down
at the same time is that we haven't hooked them all together," he said.
So at Treasury, "We have a clearly defined security parameter and DMZ."
Hagerling, who spent 26 years in the Navy, has specialized in security for
most of his career.
In the 1980s, he was technical director for several command center systems,
including the Global Decision Support System for the Military Airlift Command.
This system gave the commander real-time visibility of his aircraft and
cargoes without waiting for reports. In fact, it eliminated the need for
In the 1990s, Vice Adm. Jerry Tuttle brought Hagerling to the Navy staff
to run the Navy's computer security program.
Hagerling has done all of this while fighting a debilitating illness. A
rare skeletal disease has spread bone spurs throughout his body, often causing
severe pain. Misdiagnosed and treated with steroids by military doctors,
he is now suffering from diabetes, a failing pancreas and end-stage kidney
Hagerling credits Treasury chief information officer James Flyzik with
making it possible for him to work, finding an office accessible to his
electric scooter, supplying a refrigerator to store his insulin, getting
him a parking space with easy access to an elevator and allowing him to
telework from home when his body is wracked with pain.
"I am very fortunate to have an individual with the credentials of Don on
my staff," Flyzik said. "I turn to him for advice on many critical technology
issues. In many ways, he is a true hero — overcoming physical limitations
to achieve goals that are important to Treasury and the entire nation."
Hagerling's health problems have not stopped him from getting out in
the world to share his expertise. At the recent GovTech conference in Washington,
D.C., for instance, he stood before an audience and used slides to discuss
approaches to security.
He is always working on new ideas. "You don't eliminate risk; you reduce
risk to acceptable levels," he said. "Anybody who thinks we're totally secure
is foolish, and I don't believe I'm foolish."