Top administration cybersecurity officials face scrutiny

The Bush administration's top cybersecurity officials on Wednesday faced scrutiny from a House subcommittee on the continued lag in protecting the federal computer networks.

"I am still concerned that we are collectively not moving fast enough to protect the American people and the U.S. economy from very real threats exist today," said Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census. "Make no mistake. The threat is serious. The vulnerabilities are extensive. And the time for action is now."

Putnam said vulnerability management improvement should focus on prevention, detection and response. He vowed to seek more detailed guidance and enforcement of configuration management provisions of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), which provides a framework for federal information security management.

Putnam had entertained government intervention to bolster industry cybersecurity efforts, and said he remains "deeply concerned about the state of information security in the private sector." A second panel of industry representatives followed the government officials.

Karen Evans, administrator for electronic government and information technology at the White House Office of Management and Budget, discussed the "difficult challenge" facing federal chief information officers in confronting rising cyber threats. Evans said the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which was mandated by Congress in 2002 to develop security settings for each hardware or software system used by government, would maintain a Web-based portal and solicit setting recommendations "subject to available funds." NIST has been facing deep cuts in programs due to a budget cut by the White House.

Evans said for OMB's fiscal 2004 FISMA report, more detailed inventory reporting was required of agencies this year after incomplete inventories were submitted in 2003. Agencies also are being asked about patching of security vulnerabilities, she said. She said the Homeland Security Department's Computer Emergency Readiness Team reports that only a few agencies having improperly configured laptops were impacted by the recent attack of the Sasser worm.

Robert Dacey, director of information security issues at the General Accounting Office (GAO), provided highlights of a GAO report released at the event that found agencies are not consistently implementing common practices for effective management of patches.

Amit Yoran, director of the Homeland Security national cyber security division, outlined federal efforts, including the creation last fall of the Cyber Interagency Incident Management Group to improve government-wide response. He said the group meets regularly and involves officials with statutory authority over their agencies' resources and actions in response to incidents.

Another group, the Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams, consists of security-focused technologists working to bolster government-wide incident response, Yoran said. Homeland Security is developing a national response plan that will include a "cyber annex" outlining the government's processes for responding to a cyber attack, he said.

Also testifying were Dawn Meyerriecks, chief technology officer at the Defense Information Systems Agency, and Daniel Mehan, administrator for information services and chief information officer at the Federal Aviation Administration.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.