Interior forges enterprise network
- By Wilson P. Dizard III
- May 12, 2004
'We want to collapse the bureau networks into a departmental system.'
'Tim Quinn, Interior Telecommunications Director
Where you stand on computing in the Interior Department depends on where you sit, to mangle a Washington adage.
Department officials sitting at their workstations revamping the department's information systems point with pride to their achievements.
But plaintiffs in litigation over American Indian trust assets, sitting in court, level stern criticisms at the department's apparent failure to secure its
Interior CIO Hord Tipton sits at the center of the controversy. He has taken on the task of bringing all the department's agencies under a single enterprise network.
Tipton says he now has 13 WANs operating through 33 Internet providers. 'Our intent is to create a departmentwide intranet that will be staffed and serviced at a central location.'
The network consolidation eventually will lead to a full merger of bureau backbones into a single departmental backbone. 'That is Phase 2. It would be in 2005 or 2006,' Tipton said.Two on board
So far, two bureaus plan to join the backbone: the National Park Service and the Geological Survey.
Interior is spending $5 million this year to create the backbone, Tipton said, and will need $14 million to continue the job.
The enterprise services network will provide functions such as centralized messaging and Web services. The network design calls for the department's enterprise services network to be separated by firewalls from the bureaus' applications and LANs.
'We will be protecting ourselves from them and they will be protected from us,' Tipton said.
Tim Quinn, the department's telecommunications director, said the department's backbone will be based on TCP/IP. And to insulate the department from outside problems, Interior's data center in Northern Virginia has diesel generators for backup power in case of a blackout, Quinn said.
'We want to collapse the bureau networks into a departmental system,' Quinn said.
The plan calls for operating Interior's data center with leased equipment that vendors provide under service-level agreements and for refreshing the technology regularly.Offline and on
The exposure of Interior systems to one another, and to outside hacking, led Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to order large portions of the department to sever their Internet connections in December 2001.
Although most agencies now are back online, many systems in the Bureau of Indian Affairs as well as in other offices that handle American Indian trust funds have remained offline for more than two years.
The American Indian plaintiffs in the case Cobell vs. Norton recently agreed to the selection of mediators for the multibillion-dollar litigation. But the attorneys for the plaintiffs predict that settlement negotiations, closely tied to Interior's system problems, could drag on for years.
In the meantime, Interior faces continued pressure to put the trust program under the authority of a receiver who would manage all of the department's information systems.