[ISN] Public Disservice

From: InfoSec News (isn@private)
Date: Wed Mar 09 2005 - 04:03:42 PST


March 8, 2005 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has people problems. It can't find
or retain the project managers and executives needed to implement one
of its most important technology projects since Sept. 11, 2001.

That's the upshot of FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony before a
Senate appropriations subcommittee on Feb. 3. Mueller was on Capitol
Hill to explain why the FBI has blown through $170 million and still
doesn't have a virtual case file system in place. The virtual case
file, the third leg of a technology overhaul dubbed Trilogy, is a case
management system that would allow agents to share information more

The FBI failed to outline requirements of the virtual case file
system, inked a costly contract with Science Applications
International Corp. (SAIC) in June 2001, and missed a December 2003
deadline to install the case system. At the heart of these issues:  

"We lacked skill sets in our personnel such as qualified software
engineering, program management and contract management," Mueller said
in his testimony. "We also experienced a high turnover in Trilogy
program managers and chief information officers."

At least Mueller has company. The tenure of a federal agency chief
information officer averages 23 months, reports the U.S. Government
Accountability Office. The FBI has had four CIOs since Sept. 11, 2001.

A bevy of reasons prevent the federal government from getting.and
keeping.technology executives. Federal government executives inherit
budgets set years prior in political negotiations. Projects are under
the microscope of the director and inspector general of the agency,
the Office of Management and Budget and Congress, among other masters.

Meanwhile, the CIO position is increasingly political as technology
meets policy. For instance, merging information systems of the 22
agencies in the Department of Homeland Security is a direct result of
a post-9/11 policy decision. President Bush appointed Steven Cooper
from Corning as the CIO to do the job.

"These are very hard, high-risk jobs," says John Marshall, former CIO
of the U.S. Agency for International Development and now a vice
president at consulting firm CGI-AMS. "You're there to transform
businesses, you have to work across other groups, it's tough to manage
and compensation is generally lower than in the private sector."

Help Wanted: Chief Technical Officer for Information Technology,
Defense Intelligence Agency. Location: US-DC, Washington, 20001.  
Salary range: $107,550 to $149,200. As Chief Technical Officer for
Information Technology (CTO) the incumbent will play a pivotal role in
providing technical and operational advice on infrastructure and
intelligence community Information Technology (IT) endeavors ... May
be subject to worldwide deployments to crisis situations.  

When that CTO is hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the
23-month clock will start ticking.

But 23 months is hardly enough time to get anything done. According to
the GAO, CIOs say they needed to stay in office three to five years to
be effective.

Bottom line: A multiyear project can outrun a technology executive's
tenure. Take the FBI's Trilogy project. Former FBI CIO Bob Dies joined
in July 2000 and left after two years. Dies signed an initial contract
with SAIC, which was based on hours worked and didn't outline
specifications of the virtual case file project. Darwin John took over
in July 2002, upgraded the FBI's hardware and network in the first leg
of the Trilogy effort, and retired a year later. Wilson Lowry, former
executive assistant director for administration at the FBI, served as
interim CIO. Current CIO Zalmai Azmi took over on an interim basis
before being officially appointed as CIO in May 2004. It's now up to
Azmi to implement the virtual case file.

Mueller says Trilogy suffered as the search for John's replacement
dragged. "I went on a nationwide search that took eight to 12 months,"  
he said. "There was a gap of leadership at the CIO position. That hurt

Help Wanted: Chief Architect for Business and Technology
Modernization, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The
Chief Architect for Business and Technology Modernization serves as
the Department's technical expert on modernizing business processes
and systems. (This ad ends 2,416 words later.)

Of those 2,416 words describing the job and desired leadership
characteristics and personality traits, HUD left out political skills.  
Alan Balutis, former Department of Commerce CIO and president of
government strategies at research firm Input, says "there has been a
tendency to make the CIO position more political."

When Balutis left for the private sector in 1999, he focused primarily
on technology management. Today, the CIO position is critical to
reinventing agencies. "The CIO needs a seat at the policy table and
needs the same access," Balutis points out. "If he or she is an
outsider politically, will the access be there?"

Simply put, it helps if the CIO has access to policy makers when they
make decisions affecting information systems. And the best way to be
in that club is to be appointed by President Bush.

Marshall, who was appointed by Bush as CIO of USAID in 2001 and left
for CGI-AMS in December 2004, says that until recently, chief
information officers were "career" executives who would keep projects
going as administrations changed. Now there are two types of
technology executives.career managers focused on daily operations, and
CIOs who are political appointees.

For instance, Marshall had regular access to Andrew Natsios,
administrator for USAID, to figure out how technology fits into
specific Bush initiatives abroad.

One key part of meeting those initiatives was a financial management
and purchasing system. When Marshall arrived at USAID, the agency had
spent $100 million on a homegrown financial management and acquisition
system plagued by buggy code and missed deadlines. USAID, which
designed the system to link 70 to 80 of its missions worldwide,
scrapped the homegrown system to use packaged software from AMS to cut
costs and speed up implementation.

Marshall isn't sure if being a political appointee helped the project,
but all those meetings with Natsios meant deputies responsible for the
project day-to-day didn't have to do it. When CIOs leave, a deputy
often fills the void on an interim basis. "If you're an operational
guy and you have to interface with policy people, you get stretched,"  
he says.

Help Wanted: Associate Chief Information Officer for Cyber Security,
Department of the Treasury. The incumbent is the head of U.S. Treasury
Cyber Security Program and is fully responsible for accomplishing the
cyber security program objectives.

And then there's the budget process where agencies tell contractors to
slow their pace to save money as Congress and the White House bicker
for dollars.

At the Commerce Department, Balutis could shift up to 5% of his budget
in and out of projects. If the funds in question exceeded that 5%
mark, Balutis had to ask a Senate appropriations committee for more
money. And if all else failed, a new budget could be requested with
additional legislation.

During Balutis' tenure, funding for the 2000 census was in flux.  
Balutis had to build systems to gather population data and finish two
years early for testing. Planning started in 1995, but Congress
usually isn't interested in funding something five years away.

"It's hard to run multiyear projects when money is doled out year to
year," Balutis explains. "The biggest difficulty is that you do a plan
and then all of a sudden you're $50 million short."

Bellua Cyber Security Asia 2005 -

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