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FCW : July 15, 2016
Consultant FRANK A. MCDONOUGH is former deputy associate administrator of the General Services Administration’s Office of Intergovernmental Solutions. Commentary | FRANK A. MCDONOUGH When Hillary Clinton served in the Senate beginning in 2001, each senator’s office had its own per- sonal computer server and local- area network to manage email and other IT requirements. Lockheed Martin, under contract, supported each senator’s personal computer server. A more efficient centralized network serving the 100 senators did not exist. Today, nothing has changed. Each senator’s office is a networked island with about 50 or fewer users. Although they are examples of wasteful inefficiency, those islands are also less vulnerable to hackers. In 2009, when Clinton moved to the State Department, she was accustomed to controlling her own resources based on her experi- ence in the Senate. She might have changed her approach, but the State Department was a backwater orga- nization in terms of technology. In 1990, State awarded a five- year, $841 million contract to Wang Laboratories, a word-processing computer company that was unable to make the transition to digital computers. In my oversight role at the General Services Administra- tion, I counseled the Foreign Ser- vice officer in charge of the depart- ment’s technology not to award the contract to Wang because the company’s equipment was nearly obsolete already. State, however, proceeded with the long-term award to Wang one year before the company filed for bankruptcy. State Department employees suffered for 10 years — until 2000 — with out-of-date Wang technology while most organiza- tions nationwide introduced mod- ern digital computer technology. In 2000, the Government Accountability Office reported that a series of reviews highlighted con- tinuing problems with State’s infor- mation and physical security con- trols. GAO recommended that State take strong action to ensure that controls were in place and operat- ing as intended to reduce risks to sensitive information assets. In congressional hearings in 2001, State officials revealed that they were using cumbersome microfiche technology to manage the issuance of visas to foreign- ers seeking to enter the U.S. As a result, overseas State Depart- ment officials issued three visas to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later indicted for a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The inspector general testified that the microfiche system was so time-consuming and cumbersome that it was likely not being checked as required on numerous occasions. At that time, most organizations had already replaced microfiche with computer-based searches. In 2014, hackers penetrated State’s unclassified email systems and apparently used that access to penetrate White House systems. It became evident that the strong action recommended by GAO had not occurred in the intervening 14 years. In 2015, media sources reported that hacker code remained hid- den inside State’s systems despite cleanup work by Defense Depart- ment and National Security Agency experts. Observers said that by underinvesting in technology and security, State had allowed hack- ers to penetrate and remain in the unclassified network. Today, the technology that was available during Clinton’s time in the Senate and State Department should be central in the debate about her use of a personal email server while secretary of State. A review of the past 25 years of tech- nology management in the State Department suggests that Clinton did the right thing by choosing to work from a personal email server. The systems in State could not be trusted. The White House likely has learned that lesson. The Senate model of inde- pendent servers for each office provides better security than the central facilities provided for many years by State Department officials. n When using your own email server makes sense Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a personal server likely arose from the antiquated state of technology at the State Department and her experience in the Senate The systems in State could not be trusted. The White House likely has learned that lesson. 12 July 15, 2016 FCW.COM 0715fcw_012.indd 12 6/27/16 9:21 AM
June 30, 2016
July 30, 2016