The Circuit

Don't Count on It

A one-day conference last month designed to bring together federal information technology folks and the money people on Wall Street may have bridged the gap between the two communities, but it didn't close it.

Throughout the E-Security and Homeland Defense conference, officials pointed out that cybersecurity and homeland security are not just the responsibility of the government. Agency chief information officers, the heads of major security firms and even top executives from the insurance industry came forward to emphasize the point.

It all culminated in the luncheon speech by Kenneth Juster, who leads the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, in which he told the assembled managers that homeland security translates into economic security. Much of the responsibility for economic security rests with those on Wall Street, he said, and the Bush administration plans to hold companies to that.

One participant asked if that means the government will be helping firms defray the costs of any information security steps they take in the name of economic security. Juster didn't laugh outright, but the response came down to: "I wouldn't count on it."

The SCAP Heap

Federal Aviation Administration officials speak often about the agency's Security Certification and Accreditation Packages, which every new information system must pass before being connected to the FAA network. However, as FAA Chief Information Officer Dan Mehan has admitted in the past, it is much harder to put the agency's legacy systems through the SCAP process.

As systems administrators work their way through existing systems, the agency has come up with an interesting workaround, Mehan said at the homeland defense conference last month. In some cases, the FAA has put boundaries around groups of systems, essentially cutting them off from real-time contact with other portions of the network. For systems that do not need to be in real-time contact, the agency has created massive "data marts" to hold information from the network. The information is brought over from the network, stored in the data mart and then accessed via the off-limits systems, Mehan said.

Exact Change Only

Changes may happen slowly at the General Services Administration, but at least one industry group is pleased with the reaction to the external performance evaluation performed by Accenture.

GSA commissioned the Accenture study in January to look for overlaps between the offerings from the Federal Technology Service and the Federal Supply Service, and to find opportunities to improve how the agency serves its federal customers and industry partners. Accenture found many areas for improvement, resulting in four specific recommendations.

At a recent dinner meeting with the Coalition for Government Procurement, GSA Administrator Stephen Perry said he is setting up teams to work on each of Accenture's recommendations and will actively solicit input from industry leaders. "Perry's remarks were forthright and showed a substantial knowledge of multiple front-burner acquisition issues," Larry Allen, executive director of the coalition, wrote in the group's weekly e-mail newsletter.

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