A missed opportunity

In the Bush administration's draft National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, the authors wrote in the section dealing with the federal government, "Accepting anything less than excellence in federal computer security places the nation and the American people at risk." Too bad the cyberspace security strategists didn't apply the same criteria to their effort in writing the report.

Federal security experts in and outside government are disappointed with the draft, especially the eight pages on what the federal government must do to secure its critical information systems. Much of the section is devoted to rehashing. Bush's cybersecurity team used a lot of space explaining what the Office of Management and Budget is doing to push federal information technology managers to secure systems and meet the requirements of the Government Information Security Reform Act of 2000.

Federal IT workers know all that, and they know the problems. What they want are answers and leadership. What they got was a book report. The document is full of "shoulds" and "coulds." The unsettling aspect is that the federal government section was the most strongly worded section in the entire report.

For years, IT managers have clamored for stronger security guidance — and the money to pay for it. What they have received during those years is vague direction, cuts in spending and admonishments for not securing their systems. The Bush administration had the rare opportunity to use the report to drive some clear stakes in the ground that spelled out what is expected of agencies and how to achieve those goals.

Of course, federal IT managers are not free from blame. They have routinely ignored directives from the General Services Administration's Federal Computer Incident Response Center that give information about new security holes in products and how to fix them.

The administration could do a lot more to set clearer, stricter guidelines by the time the final report is completed at the end of the year. After all, as the report states, poor information security puts Americans at risk. The report's security policies should reflect that.


  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.