Auditors stress importance of data security to TSP officials

Data security should continue to be an ongoing concern for Thrift Savings Plan officials, according to Labor Department auditors.

Reviewers from Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration told TSP officials during a monthly meeting Tuesday that there were no instances in fiscal 2006 of "material noncompliance" with the Federal Employees' Retirement System Act, the law that authorized the TSP in 1986. But they said plan officials should focus on updating and approving TSP's security strategy, based upon the most recent risk assessment.

"There is always going to be a need for ongoing security upgrades, and it is always going to be a part of our focus here at the board," said James Petrick, TSP's chief financial officer, in his response to the audit.

EBSA is responsible for regularly auditing TSP and determining its level of compliance with the requirements of the 1986 law.

Data security concerns have increased after hackers breached the accounts of some TSP participants in late December and stole $35,000. Outgoing TSP Executive Director Gary Amelio reacted to the breach at a recent special TSP meeting, noting: "We've become so efficient with technology that technology is destroying us."

TSP houses names, Social Security numbers and addresses on about 3.6 million current and former federal employees who have invested more than $180 billion in retirement savings through the system. Mark Hagerty, the plan's chief information officer, said in June 2006 that he wanted to expand TSP's security measures by enabling participants to switch to using account numbers, rather than Social Security numbers, to access their TSP accounts online. But that change has yet to be made.

EBSA auditors also highlighted a recent report that assessed TSP's plan for disaster recovery, stressing the need for an improved ability to continue operations in the event of an emergency. They recommended that a risk assessment be conducted at the TSP's disaster-recovery site in Pittsburgh, and noted this is the next audit they have planned this year.

The auditors outlined other plans for 2007, including investigating the full scope of computer access security and initiating a special project on data security vulnerability.

Meanwhile, TSP officials and Labor auditors stressed the need to beef up efforts to promote the TSP to the military services. Audit reports indicate that members of the Marine Corps and the Army have the lowest rates of participation in the plan.

Pamela Jeanne Moran, TSP's director of participant services, attributed the results to the fact that the country is at war, with soldiers and Marines focusing their attention on the mission at hand rather than benefits issues.

Auditors recommended that TSP strengthen its procedures for training personnel responsible for educating service members about the benefits of the plan.

During the Tuesday meeting, TSP officials also said their farewells to Amelio, who came to the plan in 2003 and oversaw the 401(k)-style retirement savings program's growth to $206 billion. He left TSP to become president of retirement services for ULLICO Inc., which provides insurance and investment products and services for union members.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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