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CIOs Under Pressure

IT officers are getting more efficient, but guess what keeps them up at night?

Fortnightly Magazine - March 2007

department-wide benefits, which means consolidating our data centers, e-mail networks, and getting us into a DHS network. A lot of reports from the IG focused around getting us to do that.

A second area is cyber-security. Not federal or national cyber-security, but focus on the 22 departments—and particularly those seven I mentioned earlier—the systems that they operate on. The data, the networks, the applications, the configuration controls, the training, the testing, all of those things. We document the statuses. If there are weaknesses, we put milestones in place to correct those weaknesses. A lot of those weaknesses are what the IG writes about in its reports. We make sure that every one of those IG items that relates to cyber-security is documented as a weakness, is accountable to a system owner, and that they have a plan in place to correct that.

The third area is the alignment of our architecture with our budget and with our appropriations and our planning. We put together budgets based on our O&M and where we would like to move certain systems or develop things based on what we believe is a return on investment. Or it may be a law or a White House mandate that says we need to do something. So we put budgets around that. Those are vetted and approved by the president. The president puts the budget out, that goes to the Hill, and they do their wrestling between the House and the Senate.

We get back an appropriation and have to execute it, because that’s the law. As you might expect, you have to manage the projects and architecture within those budgets. We’re trying to get that in alignment to the systems that we have so we have greater predictability and flexibility in the impacts of a budget on our appropriation process. It’s bookkeeping, but it’s really giving us data to manage. We want to improve that.

We want to improve information-sharing as well. A lot of that has to do with getting our information and the classification of that information. We’re dealing with public information, information that’s sensitive but unclassified. It involves collapsing a lot of networks that we have where usership has dwindled. We still have contracts on those that were transferred when the department was created. We’re going to phase those out. We’re going to migrate the users, build a bigger community, build better content, build a more reliable network, and extend that.

It’s certainly a process and not an event. Most companies that acquire as much as DHS did take years to do that. They don’t acquire 22 different companies in a year. We did, and we merged them. You’re going to have a lot of different ledgers, payable systems, accounting systems—that’s our week, trying to rationalize that and bring that to the bottom line, with better performance on the other end.

Fortnightly: Is there anything you want to add on integration between new and legacy systems?

Charbo: That’s what we do every day. There isn’t a CIO council meeting where we don’t try to home