Govt CIO survey says IT security is top concern

Chief information officers (CIOs) at U.S. government agenciessay they’ve made progress on several key issues, including ITsecurity and modernizing their IT infrastructure, but still facemajor challenges in security and other areas, according to a surveyreleased Tuesday.

Government CIOs told interviewers sent by the InformationTechnology Association of America (ITAA) they’ve made progress inestablishing IT security as a priority, expanding securityawareness among staff and, in several cases, appointing a chiefsecurity officer, according to the survey. But IT security andprivacy remain federal CIOs’ top concerns, said Paul Wohlleben, apartner at Grant Thornton LLP, which compiled the survey forITAA.

“They want to move to a state where they’re taking a view oftheir risk … on an ongoing basis, supported by technology,”Wohlleben said. “Today, you hear them talking about too much manualintervention. They want to see more tools emerge that they can hookonto their networks, onto their applications, that will perform themonitoring for them.”

Federal CIOs want more mature IT security tools, Wohllebenadded.

“We’re talking about a vast space they have to protect, and somevery sophisticated perpetrators,” he added. “Some of the [security]technology is just now evolving.”

While many CIOs reported making progress with IT security, fewersaid they were moving forward with privacy initiatives, he said.While some high-profile agencies have addressed privacy issues,”privacy is a much less mature concern in government” thansecurity, Wohlleben said.

The 16th annual ITAA survey of U.S. government CIOs includedinterviews with 36 CIOs or assistant CIOs and three governmentoversight officials between August and December 2005. As in pastyears, this year’s survey focuses more on general trends than harddata points.

In addition to security concerns, federal CIOs also identifiedas key priorities standardizing and consolidating their ITinfrastructure, improving project management, and examining ways touse managed services from outside vendors, according to thesurvey.

One general theme in the interviews was concern about executinglong-term plans, Wohlleben said. While federal CIOs see themselvesas agents of change in coming years, shifting priorities withingovernment can make it difficult to carry through long-term ITplans, he added.

Several government IT projects, including a U.S. Federal Bureauof Investigation case management project, have not met deadlines inrecent years. The four-year-old FBI Virtual Case File project wasscrapped last March, but the FBI announced in June it had rolledpieces of the project into a new case management plan.

Many CIOs see execution as a concern especially when trying tocarry out IT modernization plans, Wohlleben said.

“The real issue is executing those plans over a dynamic periodof time,” Wohlleben said. “Most of these systems, you don’timplement in a week, you don’t implement in a year. They’remultiyear implementations in a political environment where laws arebeing changed, in a budgetary environment where budgets are beingchanged.”

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