DHS IG clashes with Secret Service over authority of CIO

Latest report airs dispute over CIO authority, IT modernization plans

The Homeland Security Department Office of Inspector General and the Secret Service aired in a recent report their dispute about whether the agency’s CIO has sufficient authority to effectively carry out IT modernization plans.

Frank Deffer, assistant inspector general for IT audits, concluded in the April 6 report that the Secret Service’s IT modernization may not reach its objectives because the agency’s CIO lacks agencywide authority and there are staffing shortages and several other shortcomings in strategic planning and governance.

Deffer faulted the Secret Service for not updating its strategic plan to fix weaknesses or align with departmental objectives and said it didn't sufficiently report and track system weaknesses because of limited staff.

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“We are recommending that the U.S. Secret Service develop an information technology staffing plan, formalize the Executive Steering Committee, and provide its Chief Information Officer with agencywide information technology budget and investment review authority,” Deffer wrote.

In its draft version of the report, Deffer also made a fourth recommendation that the Secret Service CIO report directly to DHS' CIO.

The Secret Service disputed all of the recommendations, including the advice that the CIO directly report to the DHS CIO.

Direct reporting to the departmental CIO would conflict with a law requiring that all Secret Service personnel report to no one other than the agency director, George Luczko, assistant director for the Secret Service’s Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote in a response to a draft version of the report in November 2010.

Deffer subsequently agreed with the interpretation of the law and removed the recommendation for direct reporting from the final report.

“We agree that Public Law 109-177 exempts the Secret Service’s CIO from having a 'direct reporting relationship' with the DHS CIO and have adjusted this recommendation accordingly,” Deffer wrote. “However, we maintain that the Secret Service CIO should have the agencywide IT budget and investment authority necessary to ensure that IT initiatives and decisions support the accomplishment of Secret Service and departmentwide mission objectives."

Luczko also charged that the IG's report mischaracterized the IT modernization-related staffing changes and planning that was already under way. However, Deffer held firm on that recommendation and maintained that the staffing was not sufficient to support the plans.

As for the governance structure, Luczko also described the inspector general’s report as misrepresenting those efforts and outlined several activities related to the formation of the executive steering committee.

Deffer wrote that he was "encouraged" by that response.

“As stated in the Secret Service’s response, it appears that the Secret Service’s Executive Steering Committee has been meeting, and that steps have been taken to finalize the committee’s charter," Deffer wrote. "We recognize, and are encouraged by, these actions and look forward to the charter’s finalization."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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