Agencies trying to strike a balance between security, information sharing

As many agencies try to figure out how to balance the needs for network security and information sharing, Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer, said a major area of focus has to be moving to a services-oriented world.

Wennergren stayed away from the services-oriented architecture basics that usually lull senior managers to sleep. Instead, he talked about how agencies are on the cusp of a profound change similar to the one desktop PCs, the Internet and personal digital assistants brought to offices.

“We need to have corporate services for everyone and have local people focus on their needs,” he said during a breakfast discussion sponsored by AFCEA’s Bethesda, Md. chapter in that city. “This change is manifested in data. If we make data discoverable, accessible and understandable, it will have a great impact on how we do business.”

Wennergren called this need to balance security with accessibility an example of polarity, where the two competing requirements are given similar importance.

“The nature of security is changing,” he said. “We need secure computing from nontrusted computers. We also need to deal with identity management issues.”

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to manage problems similar to the ones DOD faces.

Molly O’Neill, EPA’s CIO, said the agency is moving quickly toward collaboration tools, such as wikis and blogs. “We will launch a sandbox this week for employees,” she said.

The sandbox will include internal collaboration sites to make information sharing easier.

O’Neill added that the collaboration effort also is focused on citizens and EPA customers.

“We want to use Web 2.0 tools in the regulatory process,” she said. “We want to find the right opportunity to manage the different tools, which could be any combination of wikis, blogs or chat rooms. We are getting a lot of push from our senior management to do this.”

EPA plans to launch a National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information online this spring. The agency also launched the Watershed Central wiki, O’Neill said.

“Our goal is to work our Gov 2.0 tools into our business processes,” she said. “We want to improve search and access capabilities of environmental data. There is a lot of data and a thirst for it from the public.”

EPA is now letting users find information more easily by integrating the site map protocol with the E-Rulemaking federal dockets database. The protocol allows  commercial search engines to find data more easily.

In addition to improving how it makes information accessible, EPA is in the early stages of developing green, energy efficient guidelines or models for data centers.

O’Neill said this effort will include industry groups and product manufacturers.“We want to take a holistic approach, not a product by product approach,” she said. “We want to know what equipment works [together] so the totality is energy efficient.”

EPA likely will make a formal announcement in early spring about the effort and possibly issue guidelines or models by the end of 2008, she said.

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