State wants its bureaus to get thin

State's CIO, Bruce Morrison, said the thin-client deployment falls under the department's Global IT Modernization program. Congress earmarked $8 million for thin-client deployment in the modernization program's $85 million budget for fiscal 2004, as well as $8 million in 2003.

Top contractors (in millions, Fiscal 2003)

STG Inc.  - $34.6

GTSI Corp. - $22.9

Orkand Corp. - $12.1

Northrop Grumman Corp. - $11.8

Alphatech Corp. - $11.2

American Management Systems Inc. - $10.3

DigitalNet Inc. - $9.3

IBM Corp. - $8.9

Therma Digital Technologies Inc. - $8.9

Motorola Inc. - $7.7

Total - $137.7

Sources for Inside State include the State Department and Input of Reston, Va

The department's overseers in congressional appropriations committees, along with secretary Colin Powell, have pressed State's Information Resources Management Bureau to improve technology under the modernization program rather than simply refresh PCs, Morrison said.

'It's largely for LAN infrastructure, for our PCs, servers, routers and the networks that link them all together,' Morrison said of the modernization program.

The modernization effort already has refreshed about 11,000 of the department's 43,500 PCs worldwide. Started last fall, the project is intended to follow up on State's $200 million initiative to deploy a classified network worldwide and a $109 million effort to give all State users Internet connectivity.

IRM has fielded thin-client networks in Vienna, Austria, and Moscow, and soon will do so in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After that, State officials plan to deploy a thin-client network in the European Bureau, the department's largest regional bureau.

ManTech International Corp. of Fairfax, Va., is the prime contractor on the project.

Users access the thin-client networks via multiple passwords. State's technologists are looking to add biometric and smart-card access controls to the systems.

'They have all the capabilities they would have now [with PCs] except that [the thin clients] use a central server,' Morrison said. 'It really is a lot safer, because one of our most common security violations is people leaving classified hard drives in PCs.'

The department's users have accepted the thin systems, he said.

'For instance, [on a recent] weekend when everyone in Moscow had to come in and work because of the terrible bombings in Beslan at the school, they didn't have to go through all this rigmarole of getting their classified drives out of the safes. They could just go and start to work right away.'

The central servers that the thin clients connect to are much easier to maintain and secure than dozens of PCs in a typical post, he said.

Bureau officials monitor the servers from Washington. The posts also provide 24-hour maintenance coverage, and each post has redundant server capability. 'It's actually cheaper, too,' Morrison said. 'It takes less electricity, and the cost of the PCs is less.'

State's thin-client approach to desktop computing sets it apart from most other agencies. 'I am surprised that it hasn't made more headway, because it is such a boon to security,' Morrison said.

'The other thing of course is that doesn't have that diskette [drive] or CD, so you can't introduce malicious code onto your network [that way].'

Another key element of the global modernization program is the bureau's project to deploy Microsoft Active Directory to all its facilities worldwide. 'Once we get that done, people will be able to log on from anywhere in the world,' Morrison said.

State expects to complete the Active Directory deployment by December 2005.


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