Interior CIO outlines IT transformation

Interior Department officials are making progress on an ambitious plan to streamline the agency's information technology and networking infrastructure, according to W. Hord Tipton, Interior's chief information officer.

Agency officials are working, along with MCI, on the Enterprise Services Network, an effort to consolidate 13 wide-area networks into a single, centralized network operation center. Officials are "building the network around subnets, which can be unplugged at any time" for security purposes, Tipton said. He spoke at a breakfast meeting hosted by market research firm Input.

Phase 1 of the initiative, scheduled for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, includes the implementation of a network operations and security center that will provide round-the-clock monitoring capabilities. Agency officials will consolidate 33 separate Internet connections operated by the department's bureaus into four centrally managed Internet gateways and create a secure intranet so all bureaus can communicate with one another.

Phase 2 of the initiative, to be implemented in fiscal 2006 and beyond, involves the full consolidation of the bureau networks and operations center, Tipton said.

Also, Interior officials have made significant headway in securing numerous support systems, the CIO said. The agency has been slammed for its lack of appropriate defenses to secure agency systems from cyber attack and, as a result, has had to shut down Internet access to some bureaus.

Security is a big part of the IT transformation effort, Tipton said. Two years ago, agency officials spent about $4 million on security for all departments. In the past two years, they have spent $100 million on security, he said.

The department adopted a defense-in-depth approach to security that goes beyond layered protection for applications and systems. It includes an emphasis on management, technology and people to make sure personnel have the right tools to do their jobs, Tipton said. Interior officials' approach to security also involves looking at the business operations first because IT officials don't want to do anything that would hamper business lines, he said.

As of last month, agency officials have secured and accredited 135 critical support systems to meet Office of Management and Budget security compliance requirements. Another 25 have been secured but are awaiting accreditation, he added.

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