Coast Guard urged to overhaul IT practices

Poor management oversight and lackluster computer security policies and practices plague the U.S. Coast Guard's information technology system, according to a new General Accounting Office report. Congress' agency watchdog said that although the Coast Guard had many important IT management policies in place, it has not consistently put those policies into practice. In "Coast Guard Practices Can Be Improved" (GAO-01-190), GAO evaluated the Coast Guard's information technology policies in five areas: investment management; IT architecture; software acquisition and development; information security; and human capital. The Coast Guard fared the worst with its policies and practices on tracking IT assets and overseeing its IT investment, according to the report. GAO rated the agency's computer security and human capital practices as average at best. "USCG [the Coast Guard] has no policy for developing and maintaining an IT asset inventory. In practice, USCG has several different lists of assets, but they are not consistent or comprehensive. One key list, the Agency Capital Plan, summarizes the IT systems in development and in operation, but does not capture and track the assets--such as hardware, software, and human capital--comprising these systems," said the report. The Coast Guard's information security policies won praise, but GAO questioned USCG's follow-through on practice. GAO determined that only three of 38 computer systems have obtained proper security accreditation, and that refresher training on emerging security threats and technologies is needed. GAO also cited the agency for failing to address reported weaknesses in physical security controls. On the human capital front, GAO said that the Coast Guard did not have a complete inventory of its workforce's IT skills and does not report on the status of its recruiting and training programs. The Coast Guard--the fifth branch of the armed services--is responsible for ensuring maritime safety, national security, protecting natural resources and cracking down on illegal drugs and migrants. In the last few years, the agency has voiced concerns over performing its multiple duties with aging equipment, an inexperienced workforce and a short supply of funds. The Coast Guard's four major acquisition projects--including a project that will modernize the agency's distress and response system--account for 25 percent of the agency's fiscal 2000 IT budget. In each of the five areas evaluated, GAO provided the Coast Guard with recommendations, including:
  • Establish a comprehensive inventory of IT assets that includes up-to-date cost and schedule information.
  • Develop and oversee a thorough IT investment portfolio.
  • Implement an effective computer security program.
  • Correct IT security weaknesses.
  • Assess the IT civilian workforce's skills.
  • Document progress on recruiting strategies and use results to improve human capital strategies.

GAO praised the Coast Guard for putting sound policy guidance into practice in some key areas, including software acquisition planning and project management and contract tracking and oversight. Transportation Department and Coast Guard officials generally agreed with GAO's recommendations and said they are working to put them into practice.

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

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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