Agency CIOs emphasize sharing information '

Agency CIOs emphasize sharing information '

Linda Cureton, acting CIO at the Energy Department.

On Sept. 11, the terrorists 'had something we don't,' said Alex Bennet, deputy CIO for enterprise integration and chief knowledge officer for the Navy. 'They had very good knowledge management, they shared and they understood. That's what we have not done well.'

The sudden shift of priorities toward security should not mean closing the door on the outside, Bennet said at a meeting last month of the Government Electronics and IT Association. She warned against putting barriers around IT infrastructures.

'While security is critically important to what we're doing, homeland security is all about facilitating the flow of data among our decision-makers,' Bennet said. 'Homeland security does not mean creating an enclave.'

Because she works for the Defense Department, Bennet said, she deals with the security of communications media every day. She said she has not seen projects fall by the wayside since the attacks, but security projects are getting more attention.

On Sept. 11, some agencies discovered they didn't know how to contact others, Bennet said. 'We realized we weren't connected. We learned a lot of lessons.' She said the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet contract helped by reconnecting damaged networks at the Pentagon and retrieving data fast.

'Because we had the contract in place, everything that was lost was rebuilt in six days,' Bennet said. She also said she believes DOD should be making more use of public-key infrastructures and smart cards.

Ira Hobbs, acting CIO for the Agriculture Department, said security, already a concern, has become critical.

'We were focused on infrastructure. What has changed is the intensity,' Hobbs said.

Agriculture will begin cooperating more with the Health and Human Services Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, to share information about bioterrorism.

'All of this falls under the broad mantle of information technology,' Hobbs said, telling vendors at the conference, 'We want you to be a part of those teams.'

New management style

Linda Cureton, acting CIO at the Energy Department, said her goal of cleaning up duplicate systems took a higher priority after Sept. 11. So did improving communications among Energy's remote offices and at headquarters. There are 23 help desks to serve 7,500 employees and 400 servers at Washington headquarters alone, she said.

'Anyone that knows anything about the department knows it's an extremely decentralized environment,' Cureton said. But more than server or help desk consolidation, Energy needs a new management style, as do many agencies, she said.

'It's really a change-of-management project; it's not about installing [software] on the desktop,' Cureton said.

Terrence Balven, Air Force headquarters CIO, said priorities have shifted in obvious ways'to troop deployment, for example. He said the service is looking more closely at an NMCI-like contract as a possibility.

'There are some recent events that increase our motivation,' Balven said.

The Air Force has worked steadily to improve communication between troops and headquarters, he said.

'One Air Force, one network. IT kind of captures that vision,' Balven said. 'We've done a lot to consolidate servers, e-mail systems, then networks. That's immediate savings, that's people you don't need.'

But Balven said he doesn't believe there will be more money for IT or that there is enough money now.

Bennet agreed. She said that after Mark Forman, the Office of Management and Budget associate director for IT and e-government, requested a $20 million budget and got $5 million, the writing was on the wall.

Hobbs said the money for IT does exist, it has just been spent on everything besides critical infrastructure; the shift in priorities should simply mean a shift in budget.

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