GCN INTERVIEW | Stephen Colgate, Justice's IT beat cop

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Colgate, assistant attorney general for administration, is responsible for
Justice administration and management, including financial management, human resources,
information technology, facilities and security.


During two decades of government service, Colgate has worked his way up the management
ladder. At Justice, he has been executive officer in the Civil Rights Division and
assistant director of the budget staff. Before coming to Justice, he worked at the
Treasury Department as director of finance and at the Federal Emergency Management Agency
as a budget officer.


Colgate has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and a master’s
from American University. He has received the Attorney General’s Distinguished
Service Award and the Meritorious Executive and Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank
awards.


GCN staff writer Merry Mayer interviewed Colgate at his office at Justice headquarters.


GCN: What are the big
technology projects on the horizon at the Justice Department?


COLGATE: We have to break it down between state and local and federal information
technology projects.


There is going to be a significant emphasis on technology in the fiscal 2000 budget in
the state and local assistance area. We are trying to leverage the investment we made in
hiring 100,000 community police officers.


What we want to do in the 2000 budget—because in 1999 we will have funded 100,000
cops—is shift our emphasis to provide technology to the criminal justice community to
act as a leverage or force multiplier for the investments in personnel.


So you will see in this 2000 budget $350 million in all-new funding for state and local
crimefighting assistance: $100 million will be for crime analysis technology programs,
$125 million for improved public safety communications and an additional $125 million for
crime-solving technology. This will be all new funding.


There is sort of an overlay to what is being done on the federal side. In July, we will
be deploying the National Crime Information Center 2000 system and the Integrated
Automated Fingerprint Identification System.


NCIC 2000 deals with new abilities to track criminal histories one to one. IAFIS allows
almost instantaneous response on fingerprints and criminal history information.


The notion is that now we will have these federal tools available to state and local
officers who want to beef up their capability to use these tools.


So there is a major effort to use technology as a way to continue to drive down the
crime rate.


On the federal side, the 2000 budget will continue the buildup of technology on a lot
of different fronts. We will continue the FBI’s Information Sharing Initiative, which
is really the backbone for bringing the FBI into the 21st century.


We will provide additional funding for the deployment of the Drug Enforcement
Administration’s Firebird and Merlin to give their agents more modern tools.


We have a $50 million initiative at the Border Patrol to infuse technology. It’s a
sort of a forced leveraging situation where we will introduce the use of more sensors and
mapping technologies to really improve the effectiveness of the Border Patrol.


Another $120 million for counterterrorism and cybercrimes initiatives will improve the
tools and capabilities for our FBI agents in dealing with high-tech law enforcement
issues.


Also there will be a major emphasis on improving our prosecutorial capabilities by
increasing the number of U.S. attorneys who will be dealing with cybercrime issues. Those
attorneys have to have an appreciation for the technology and have to have the technology
tools to be effective.


GCN: Are there any
plans to standardize Justice systems throughout the department’s agencies?


COLGATE: We will deploy this summer the Justice Communications Network, what we call
JCN. I believe this summer we will have it up and running at 32 major nodes


so we will be moving to a single communications network.


We also plan to release, in the very near future, the department’s IT architecture
plan so that we can present to the outside world the way we see the evolution of the
department’s IT architecture.


GCN: Any progress on
developing a browser that could block an applet?


COLGATE: That is a very interesting issue. It cuts on both sides. We are very concerned
about the computer security issues involving JavaScript or other types of imported files
that come into the department through the Internet.


It is a two-edged sword because we are always concerned about bringing in a Trojan
horse—some type of mechanism that would pose a threat to the department. But at the
same time, the Internet has become such an important tool for us as far as our day-to-day
activities go.


When you are dealing with client agencies or dealing in electronic commerce or
whatever, the ability to transmit executables is important. We are very concerned about
these executables and the threat they pose because we are the Justice Department and we
are the nation’s chief law enforcement office.


Have we finally resolved it? No. But we are trying to look at this from a balanced
approach, realizing the real threat but also realizing how important the Internet is in
our day-to-day activities.


GCN: Is the
ban on applets still on?


COLGATE: Yes.


GCN: What about using
digital certificates?


COLGATE: We actually have a lab looking at that. We have a lab being run by one of our
law enforcement agencies because that may be an important mechanism to give us the level
of comfort we need to deal with computer security issues. And we will probably see some
major movement in that area this year.


GCN: Will you use digital
certificates in other areas as well?


COLGATE: Yes. For example, it will improve our ability to deal more effectively with
our client agencies.


Take the movement of information back and forth between Justice and the IRS. There are
significant security requirements that relate to taxpayer information, or if you were
exchanging sensitive law enforcement information on a task force between a major
metropolitan police department and either the FBI or DEA, or if you ever got into the
notion of filing briefs with the courts electronically.


GCN: How is the Justice
Consolidated Network II project going?


COLGATE: It is going exceptionally well. We had our problems with JCON, but since we
sat down and validated requirements and established JCON II, it has gone exceptionally
well. I think the users are very pleased with the tools we’ve put on their desks.


We are probably about ready to launch another major installation, and that’s for
our U.S. attorneys. JCON II is pretty much complete as far as the Washington litigating
activities are concerned. In 1999, our focus will be on deployment in the U.S.
attorneys’ offices.


GCN: What do you consider
your major recent accomplishment in IT?


COLGATE: The No. 1 accomplishment is that we have more of the agencies looking at
problems from a systemic standpoint, instead of individual, parochial interests. I think
it is a major accomplishment that we got everybody to agree on moving forward with a
common communications network.


GCN: Justice received an F
in November from Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) on its year 2000 preparations. What progress
have you made since then?


COLGATE: The problem we have had with the Y2K reporting by Congress is that it
essentially takes a point in time and extrapolates forward.


At Justice, from the very beginning, we acknowledged that we weren’t going to see
orders of magnitude improvement until the final months of last year and early into this
year. And we really have seen that in the number of systems that have been renovated and
validated.


I just told the attorney general the other day that I am very comfortable with our
efforts on mission-critical systems. I told her now we need to redouble our efforts, keep
up that pressure and change our focus to non-mission-critical systems.  


inside gcn

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