Industry lobbies to secure CIAO funding

Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office

Applying pressure where agencies cannot, 11 private-sector organizations

called on Congress this week to fully fund the Critical Infrastructure Assurance

Office for its continuing leadership of government and industry information

security efforts.

"If the CIAO is not funded adequately, it will set back the nation's

critical infrastructure strategic development and the public-private cooperation

that the agency has so ably facilitated," the letter states. "The CIAO has

worked hard to gain the trust of industry for the benefit of the economic

security of the U.S., and the rewards of this service are just beginning

to come to fruition."

The CIAO, housed at the Commerce Department, has worked closely with

industry, which owns 90 percent of the United States' infrastructure, to

develop awareness programs, information-sharing mechanisms and partnerships

with the federal government.

Although agencies are not allowed to lobby for money from Congress past

their initial request, members of the CIAO, including director John Tritak,

have encouraged industry to work with Congress. The letter sent to Senate

Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) this week by 11 organizations is the

first sign that the private sector is taking up the challenge.

Signatories include Cisco Systems Inc., Electronic Data Systems Corp.,

Microsoft Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The CIAO has been the point organization for helping federal agencies

and commercial entities develop security plans under Presidential Decision

Directive 63, which requires the protection of systems that support the

nation's critical infrastructure. The office also coordinated the development

of the National Plan for Information Systems Protection, released in January

this year.

President Clinton's budget request to Congress included $6.7 million

to keep the CIAO running through fiscal 2001, but that and many other governmentwide

security initiatives are in danger of not being included in the final cut

of the appropriations bills over the next few weeks.

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