IT group delays security report

IT group delays security report

Members of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee are happy with the government's progress on IT research, but the committee last month postponed a briefing on security in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

At a Sept. 25 meeting, a briefing scheduled by PITAC's National Security Panel was delayed to look further into federal information assurance issues, said Robert Kahn, the panel's chairman and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Va.

'We thought about reporting [at the meeting], but we decided against it,' Kahn said. 'Given what happened two weeks ago, it wouldn't have been right. What we're working on is long-term, fundamental stuff. We could've done it in a hair-trigger way, but considering the seriousness [of the attacks], we wanted to be sure before we said anything publicly.'

But though the committee wants to take a second look at data security, members said they were encouraged by the government's commitment to funding IT research.

'The government has been a leader in funding'and should continue to fund'the fundamental research and some of its most sophisticated implementations,' said committee co-chairman Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who is also vice president for technology and strategy at IBM Corp.

'I think what we hear [from the committee] is the ongoing need for solving bigger problems and the need for federal leadership to help us do that,' Wladawsky-Berger said.

Funding shortfall

In a 1999 report, PITAC called federal funding for IT research 'seriously inadequate.' Although funding has fallen short of the committee's recommendations, its members seem pleased by PITAC's relationship with the Bush administration.

PITAC was established by President Clinton's executive order in 1997 to provide the government guidance on high-performance computing, communications and IT.

In June, President Bush extended PITAC's charter by two years'a move that Wladawsky-Berger considered an encouraging sign of support.

'That is the most important vote of confidence in our work,' he said.

Joe Thompson, chairman of PITAC's individual security panel, agreed and added that a healthy relationship with the White House was built into the committee's charter.

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