Intell CIO to make standards the standard

The intelligence community is taking a new standards-based approach to information security that officials believe will improve information sharing and cooperation across national security agencies and beyond.

According to a directive signed last month, the intelligence community’s chief information officer will issue communitywide standards in the area of information technology risk management, systems certification, and accreditation and system interconnectivity.

The CIO, part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, will be responsible for monitoring agencies’ compliance and resolving disputes between agencies.

The intelligence community is made up of 16 agencies, which have followed their own security standards and processes. But that approach does not reflect the nature of their work, according to the directive.

Many of their information systems are interconnected, the directive states. “The risk accepted by one element is effectively accepted by all, just as security limitations imposed by one are effectively imposed upon all.”

The policy should mean information can be more easily shared across intelligence groups. For example, according to the new rules, an IT system certification made by one group extends to the whole community.

Jim Flyzik, president of strategic consulting firm the Flyzik Group and a former Treasury Department CIO who has followed ODNI’s IT effort, said the directive is a statement that there is a movement to do more consolidation and standardization across the intelligence community.

Steve Cooper, the Homeland Security Department’s first CIO and partner at consulting firm Strativest, who oversaw a massive effort to standardize and coordinate IT systems across DHS’ component agencies, said the directive was similar to the operational guidance DHS set for IT systems risk management, accreditation, and certification during his tenure.

Common standards for IT systems improve information sharing, transparency and trust, said Ron Ross, leader of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Federal Information Security Management Act Implementation Project. He said work to standardize certification and accreditation processes for national security information systems is ongoing by the Committee on National Security Systems.

Ross added that NIST has been working with CNSS to ensure that national security and other agency systems share the same standards. 

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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