Retired general: I'll muster a DOE IT security team

Retired general: I'll muster a DOE IT security team

Bill Richardson

By Frank Tiboni
GCN Staff

The Energy Department's new security czar told lawmakers last week that he and chief information officer John Gilligan will move swiftly to tackle the department's computer security problems.

The lax protection of often highly classified data, which Energy officials acknowledge is a problem, has raised the issue of computer security at the nation's nuclear labs to a fever pitch on Capitol Hill.

New security czar at Energy faces an explosive task

Members from the House and Senate have been demanding almost daily that Energy Secretary Bill Richardson do more in the wake of charges that vast amounts of information about U.S. nuclear R&D has landed in the hands of the Chinese government.

Richardson last week introduced the department's security czar, retired Air Force Gen. Eugene E. Habiger, during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Habiger will head the department's new Office of Security and Emergency Operations.

'After conducting a broad search, we selected Gen. Habiger because he has the experience, expertise and determination to change the security culture at DOE and establish the authority and responsibility that's been missing,' Richardson said.

The committee also heard testimony from former Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.), chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, on his report, Science at its Best, Security at its Worst: A Report on Security Problems at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Attitude problems?

The report, released this month, said the department has a cavalier attitude about security. Security at Energy's national laboratories 'has been atrocious for a long time,' Rudman said.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) asked if the country's secrets in the labs are safe.

'They are not safe today,' Rudman said.

The report recommends that Energy either create a semiautonomous agency within the department to manage the weapons research and stockpile management functions, similar to the National Security Agency within the Defense Department, or create a wholly independent agency such as NASA.

Richardson said he and his staff would discuss Rudman's conclusions with the committee. He added that he wants full department oversight powers to remain under his office's purview and to keep counterintelligence and security separate while continuing scientific research at the labs.

Energy has been under intense scrutiny from Congress since the reports of espionage. The Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., in March fired Wen Ho Lee for security infractions believed to involve the movement of highly sensitive nuclear data from classified systems to unclassified systems and the release of some data to China [GCN, March 29, Page 1].

In the wake of the Los Alamos espionage scandal, Richardson last month announced several reforms to improve computer security in the department. He created Habiger's office, which comprises all the department's security, counterterrorism and nuclear emergency response programs, cybersecurity and the CIO's office [GCN, May 24, Page 1].

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) issued a report last month that exposed the weaknesses in Energy's counterintelligence and security at national laboratories.

Habiger has extensive knowledge of Energy's stockpile stewardship program. As commander in chief of the Strategic Command, he helped establish the department's program for maintaining the nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing.

'Strong security is based on a foundation of clear, line management authority, responsibility and accountability,' Habiger said. 'As the Rudman report correctly concludes, security at the Energy Department has suffered from diffuse authority and inattention.'

The Energy secretary's reforms have placed the burden of safeguarding classified and unclassified computing on Gilligan.

The Energy CIO, like Habiger, agrees that the department needs to share the computer security duty and responsibility with department and line managers [GCN, May 24, Page 1].

'I worked with Gilligan over at the Pentagon,' Habiger said. 'I know John. I respect him.'

Habiger's office also includes the Office of Security Affairs, the Office of Emergency Management and Response, and the new Office of Foreign Visits and Assignments Policy.

The House earlier this month approved an amendment introduced by Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.) to create Habiger's office. It would also let Energy impose a penalty of up to $100,000 on any contractor who breaks a rule, regulation or order relating to safeguarding of sensitive information.

Prior to retiring as commander in chief of Strategic Command in 1998, Habiger commanded two Air Force bombardment wings. He joined the Army as an enlisted man and later was a bomber pilot in the Vietnam War, flying more than 150 combat missions.

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