[ISN] Computer security could be tied to agencies' funding

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Fri Apr 8 01:55:28 EDT 2005


By Daniel Pulliam
April 7, 2005 

House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said Thursday that
agencies could have their budgets cut if their information technology
security does not improve.

With several agencies struggling to meet requirements of the 2002
Federal Information Security Management Act, Davis said that
compliance eventually has to be tied to funding. He also said that
more time is needed for agencies to fall in line with the law.

"FISMA report cards are going to have to be tied to funding," Davis
said. "That's often the only way to get [the agencies'] attention."

In an annual review by the committee, seven agencies received failing
grades, which is one less than in 2003. The overall grade inched up
2.5 points to a D+ for cybersecurity, up from a D in 2003.

Davis said financial penalties only would be implemented if agencies
do not continue to improve. He would not specify how much the
penalties would be or at what point they would be implemented.

"Even the [agencies receiving failing grades] are trying hard to get
there," Davis told Government Executive. "FISMA is just a few years
old. You have to give them some time."

At a committee hearing Thursday, Davis questioned chief information
officers from agencies that achieved the highest cybersecurity grades
-- the Agency for International Development(which earned an A+) and
the Transportation Department (with an A-) - - and the lowest
achiever, the Homeland Security Department, which received an F.

"All you need is one... cyber attack and everyone will be all over
this," Davis said. "They are going to ask who the fall guy is, and
it's not going to be me."

Steve Cooper, DHS' chief information officer, who is leaving the
agency later this month, told the panel that he is hoping the
department achieves a D by fiscal 2006, but does not see its score
improving in the next year because of the amount of time it takes to
certify and accredit all of DHS' 3,600 systems. By comparison, Cooper
said, AID must certify and accredit less than 10 systems, and
Transportation must secure 480 systems.

Davis told panel participant Karen Evans, the Office of Budget and
Management's administrator for electronic government, that he is
pleased with the efforts to standardize cybersecurity. "It's not how
much money you spend, but how well you spend it," Davis said.

Evans said that agency security procedures remain deficient largely
due to the complexity of securing the many systems. She said
inconsistency in FISMA implementation and unnecessary duplication are
areas of concern for OMB.

The budget agency is working on new FISMA guidances regarding the
privacy of information collected and performance requirements,
according to Evans.

"While notable progress in resolving IT security weaknesses has been
made, problems continue, and new threats and vulnerabilities continue
to materialize," she said.

Evans added that creating an inspector general auditing framework
similar to that used for financial audits would limit information
sharing and keep agencies from being flexible in how they implement
their cybersecurity resources.

"FISMA is an evaluation, not an audit," Evans said. "If it turns into
an audit evaluation, it is less of an exchange of information."

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