John Garing | Assured computing is DOD's insurance policy

Garing is CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency

We're concentrating on removing the single points of failure. We're refocusing or re-energizing what we had already been planning.' John Garing, DISA CIO

Rick Steele

Protecting DOD's networks is a lot like purchasing an insurance policy'you often don't see the benefits until you need them.

And that, says John Garing, CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency, makes it very difficult to convince senior leaders to spend money proactively on critical-infrastructure protection.

In fact, Garing believes network security is one of the most important things the government still needs to deal with five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

'I pay for car insurance, house insurance, and you never see the value of that until something happens that engages the insurance policy,' Garing said. 'Convincing people to spend money on eliminating single points of failure and critical-infrastructure protection, without an immediate view of a payback, is difficult at times when resources are tight. I think what we're at the risk of forgetting is the value of the insurance policy.'

Those things include refining continuity-of-operations plans, full data replication and mainframe computer mirroring, Garing said. This is consistent with DISA's philosophy of assured computing'making sure the network is always on and data is always accessible.

'I think we always had that as a goal, but 9/11 really punctuated the need for that. We're concentrating on removing the single points of failure. We're refocusing or re-energizing what we had already been planning,' Garing said.

'As a country and a government, all of us recognize that we're vulnerable,' he added. 'We've got to deal with that and make sure that we're prepared to react if our vulnerabilites are exposed or exploited.'

DOD is getting better at these preparations, Garing believes.

'From my point of view, I think we are thinking through operations during times of stress better than we did before. It's always now at the forefront of your mind as you're making decisions,' he said.

One example is the agency's openness towards telework. Garing said developing telework is an important priority for DISA and can be utilized in times of crisis.

'I think we have developed, and need to maintain, this focused sense of urgency to ensure that we're always on and do our job,' Garing said. 'We need to understand the importance of telework and how we could use that if, God forbid, something were to happen in the National Capital Region.'

Garing said he will never forget the impact of the 9/11 attacks.

'People always ask, Do you remember where you were the day John F. Kennedy was shot? I sure do,' Garing said. 'Just like 9/11, you never forget that.'

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