Senate IT plan complete

U.S. Senate Chief Information Officer J. Greg Hanson has finished the first-ever U.S. Senate Information Technology strategic plan.

The two-year, annually updated plan will be posted on the Senate intranet by March 10, Hanson said. “Technology changes so fast that I feel it’s important to revisit and rewrite the plan on an annual basis,” he said today.

The Senate Sergeant at Arms, Bill Pickle, approved the plan, following a review by the Senate Rules Committee. The plan becomes the basis for future budgeting and testimony before the Appropriations Committee.

The CIO organization, senators, system administrators and Senate staff committees will be able to comment and collaborate online, via discussion threads.

“Security and customer service are my two big business drivers,” Hanson said.

The 2005-2007 plan lists five goals:

* A secure Senate information infrastructure.

* Customer service culture top-to-bottom.

* Information technology solutions driven by business requirements.

* Reliable access to mission-critical information anywhere.

* A state-of-the-art information infrastructure.

Part of the security goal includes emergency preparedness, or the ability to support Senate continuity of operations plans and continuity of government plans. For accessibility, the Senate will deploy a high-bandwidth wired infrastructure for the Washington, D.C., campus, relocation sites and state offices. All critical data will be backed up at alternate computing facilities. All Senate members, committees and officers will have remote access.

Hanson said the Senate’s decentralized structure makes IT strategic planning more difficult because each segment has different requirements. With about 10,000 people to support, another challenge is communication. “This is all new ground… but I’m optimistic,” he said.

Outsiders see other obstacles ahead. Bruce McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at OMB and now president of the consulting firm McConnell International, called the plan potentially expensive.

“The most interesting challenge for them is the fact that they have a nationwide user base that’s actually relatively small," said McConnell, a columnist for Federal Computer Week. "They have these little offices in every state.”

The Senate should secure nodes along a virtual network and let the Internet carry the traffic, McConnell said, adding that such a system might involve some kind of standard interconnect package to all local offices. McConnell warned against using the same network for Senate operations and customer service. “That’s asking for a whole lot of trouble,” he said.

McConnell said he supported the two-way effort for future revision. “I think it’s great that they’re going to put this up and allow people to collaborate internally and keep it up as a living document. This demonstrates best practices thinking in the systems development world,” he said.

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