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FCW : September 15, 2015
In my previous column, I described the three primary root causes that have led to the massive data breach- es and compromises of core mission IT systems at multiple federal agen- cies. The first root cause is the gov- ernment’s lack of the use of IT man- agement best practices — a problem that goes back to the 1990s. In that column, I stated that the best cybersecurity defense is the result of managing your IT infra- structure and software applications well. Yet the government’s highly dis- tributed approach to IT management has led to such complexity that for many agencies, maintaining a sea of vastly different systems in an ocean of differing IT infrastructures makes it impossible to properly secure such an IT environment. Since at least the late 1990s, some leaders in government have realized that the highly distributed approach to IT management has sig- nificant downsides, but entrenched interests made it exceptionally dif- ficult to effect the necessary chang- es. For instance, a number of laws have been passed that attempted to address IT management practices. Most notably, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 mandated a strong agency CIO who could begin to rationalize IT within that agency. Yet Clinger-Cohen is viewed large- ly as failed legislation in the federal IT community because in reality, no agency CIO has the authority granted by the act. Components, bureaus and program offices have generally resisted efforts to bring more oversight and discipline to IT management and operations, under the theory that it impedes mission and business progress. The government does have anoth- er opportunity to address IT man- agement weaknesses, however. In December 2014, Congress passed and the president signed the Fed- eral IT Acquisition Reform Act, which was included in the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. FITARA is meant to address the systemic problems in managing IT effectively at agencies — and although there are a number of pro- visions, the bill’s main intent is to empower agency CIOs to address those problems. Foremost among these problems are duplication of IT infrastructure and systems, lack of adherence to best practices in IT acquisition, and implementation of proper proce- dures to ensure IT security is prop- BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Effective implementation of FITARA is the government’s best hope to address decades of mismanagement and make IT systems more secure IT insecurity and the need for better management CIOPerspective Clinger-Cohen is viewed largely as failed legislation in the federal IT community because in reality, no agency CIO has the authority granted by the act. 30 September 15, 2015 FCW.COM 0915fcw_031-032.indd 30 8/24/15 4:18 PM
August 30, 2015
September 30, 2015