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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

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

    Download
  • 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.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

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