IT security and management is one of the seven “top management and performance challenges” faced by federal agencies, a recent Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) report reveals.
“[IT] is a long-standing, serious, and ubiquitous challenge for federal agencies across the government, because agencies depend on reliable and secure IT systems to perform their mission-critical functions,” the report states.
The report is an amalgamation of 61 top management and performance challenges reports written by the offices of the various inspector generals at agencies across the federal government in 2017. CIGIE complied these reports and scoured them for “common themes or key areas of concern.” It found seven such areas.
With regard to the specific difficulties faced in the IT realm, the report identifies data security, ongoing IT modernization and the cost of maintaining legacy systems, contingency planning, and building a qualified workforce as areas IG reports often touch on. For example, the CIGIE report brings up a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigation that identified a “large and increasing amount of aged hardware” that is both costly to maintain and at increasing risk of failure.
Despite the potential for failure, the report notes, inspectors general also found that agencies struggle to have contingency plans in place. The Department of the Interior IG, for example, highlighted data backup challenges that “could potentially leave DOI without access to important data should a computer fail or system be compromised.”
Agencies struggle, the report goes on to note, with financial and personnel constraints. “The security and management of government IT systems remain challenges due to significant impediments faced by federal agencies, including resource constraints and a shortage of cybersecurity professionals,” the report states.
Other “frequently reported” challenge areas identified by the recent CIGIE report include human capital management, procurement management, grant management and more. Inspectors general from the Department of Justice, Department of Defense and National Science Foundation testified about the document in front of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday morning.
During the hearing, Michael E. Horowitz, the chair at CIGIE and inspector general of the Department of Justice, put in a plug for one of CIGIE’s own IT systems — the council is seeking “$1 million to $2 million dollars” to further build out the public-facing Oversight.gov, he said.
CIGIE isn’t the only entity that is concerned about federal IT management — the issue is also on the Government Accountability Office’s latest high risk list, released in 2017.