Breaking the bureacracy
- By Rob Thormeyer
- Jan 20, 2006
To meet PIV II, agencies take collaboration to the next level
Jimmy Bresnahan, HUD: 'It's obviously a very big undertaking when you consider that every federal employee has to have a card.'
With the Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 deadline fast approaching, agencies are collaborating to an almost historic extent to ensure that government organizations meet the requirements.
But although agencies are working together with good spirits and intentions, many are still struggling to break out of their age-old bureaucratic nature.
'This critical effort will not be won on the backs of bureaucrats,' said one agency official participating in the HSPD-12 Interagency Partnership Working Group (IPWG). 'It requires a champion with the vision, skills and passion to drive it over the top. Champions are trying to emerge in many agencies'but the champions are being tripped up and outnumbered by the bureaucrats.'
Some agencies, such as the departments of Interior and State, likely will have no problem meeting the deadlines because they already run smart-card systems to verify personnel and maintain security.Lack of resources
But for small and micro agencies, such as the Housing and Urban Development Department and the National Endowment for the Arts, complying with HSPD-12 will be problematic because they do not have the experience or resources of their larger counterparts.
'It's obviously a very big undertaking when you consider that every federal employee has to have a card to get them into their office and their computer,' said Jimmy Bresnahan, deputy director of the Telecom Processing Division at HUD and a participant in the IPWG.
One example of the benefits of collaboration is when a small agency bought card readers through a large agency for $18 each instead of the $50 originally quoted from the vendor.
'To follow the mandates of HSPD-12, the little agencies are very badly strapped,' said Jim Schoening, the General Services Administration's smart-card project manager. 'They can't go out and buy' these products themselves; it would be financially prohibitive.
Last October, as the first deadline under HSPD-12 for Personal Identification Verification-I deadline approached, a handful of large and small agencies started meeting to gauge how they should collaborate or 'in-source.'
The meetings quickly grew in size and scope, and the HSPD-12 IPWG almost instantly went from an informal initiative to an indispensable organization with as many as 25 agencies discussing potential collaborative efforts.
When the meetings started, 'it became clear that the smaller agencies need help' to meet the deadlines, Bresnahan said.Offering services
Although a few individuals from some agencies have taken a lead role in facilitating the IPWG meetings, GSA is helping the efforts by acting as an exchange of sorts, assisting agencies with needs to reach out to those with the resources to provide a service.
Interior'through its National Business Center and Bureau of Land Management'is figuring out a way to offer services such as identity proofing and smart-card applications to smaller agencies. Officials are still working on how to sign up for the products.
NBC has been working since late 2004 to develop an automated, end-to-end solution to meet the identity credential creation and logical-management re- quirements under HSPD-12, said Cyndy Anderson, HSPD-12 program manager at Interior.
And BLM could offer use of its identification management system (IDMS), a database that includes personnel information, to smaller agencies, agency officials said.
Mike Brooks, director of GSA's Center for Joint Business Solutions, whose shop is heading the talks to draft interagency service agreements, said it is premature to say how agencies are going to fund these efforts and figure out what they can offer.
For one, an agency can't take on any responsibility that would interfere with its prime mission, and at this point no agency, aside from BLM, has officially stepped forward and agreed to offer any services.
If Interior offered its IDMS services to, hypothetically, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not only must the two databases be able to talk to each other, but there must also be enough distinction between the two so FERC could customize its IDMS for its needs, officials said.
'It sounds very simple,' said Schoening. 'But the IDMSes, they have different parameters' for each agency. 'We're trying to come up with common elements.'
Without agency collaboration, the cost would be overwhelming for most agencies.
'As the ability to issue cards for other agencies moves forward, the obstacles for small agencies are less significant,' said Curt Barker, the National Institute of Standards and Technology's PIV program manager.
'Without the Interagency Partnership Working Group, the entire program would be in a lot of trouble.'