Security advocates find it tough to ride Y2K coattails

Security advocates find it tough to ride Y2K coattails

Sen. Bob Bennett says he wants the Senate to have a panel that would keep track of IT issues.

Debates over future of information center, Senate panel illustrate the difficulties of duplicating success

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

The government is hitting a few speed bumps as it attempts to parlay its success handling the year 2000 problem into plans for bolstering federal systems security.

The challenge is illustrated by debates over the future of the Year 2000 Information Coordination Center and the future of the Senate's Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem.

The Office of Management and Budget will announce next month that the $50 million ICC will be dismantled and that the equipment will go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But Dick Clarke, the national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism, and other government systems security officials are recommending that the center become a base of operations for rebuilding systems in the event of cyberattacks.

Keep it together

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate's year 2000 committee, said last week that he backs the Clarke proposal. 'The facility should be kept together rather than be divided up and given to FEMA' for its emergency operations, he said last week.

Information technology officials said they are concerned that although the government has worked on protecting systems, it has paid relatively little attention to the need to rebuild systems after an attack.

They have argued that ICC, which is in the same building as the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office [GCN, Nov. 22, 1999, Page 8], would be a good, central place for a crisis center.

There is a similar debate about security needs on Capitol Hill. Bennett is urging the Senate to leverage the widely recognized success of its year 2000 committee to create a group that would track IT concerns such as cybersecurity.

Bennett said he presented three options to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott last week: create a cross-cutting, high-tech committee; assign those duties to an existing committee; or delay a decision and disband the Senate's year 2000 committee.

During a review of year 2000 efforts in Washington sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bennett said the year 2000 committee was exceptional in part because it was driven by a deadline. But he acknowledged the resistance from committees that fear a new committee would encroach on their turf.

Furthermore, he said, Lott is 'justifiably suspicious of creating a new committee.'

The Senate's year 2000 committee has been widely praised for focusing the year 2000 efforts and including members of various committees.

Deputy Defense secretary John J. Hamre said the bipartisan, multijurisdictional way the government dealt with the year 2000 problem should be 'a model for the way government ought to work the problems in the future.'

Work pays off

During the CSIS forum, Bennett said hard work and effort helped agencies avoid major problems and let them attend to the relatively minor problems that did occur.

The concern was always about the potential of cascading problems, he said, but that never happened.

There were still failures, even after Jan. 1. Last month, the Health Care Financing Administration reported that $50 million in Medicare payments were delayed because of a date code problem, Bennett said. HCFA quickly fixed the problem, he said.

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