By John Monroe
Nov. 1, 2006
The federal government does a lot of research and development work in
information security, but its efforts still lack a coherent focus,
according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The primary problem is that the government has not developed an
overarching R&D agenda, the report states. Numerous agencies are
actively researching security issues, but they are not coordinating
their work. Those agencies also need to do a better job of sharing
information about their research with one another and with industry,
according to GAO.
"Until these issues are addressed, federal research for cybersecurity
and information assurance may not keep pace with the increasing number
of threats and vulnerabilities," GAO auditors wrote in the cover letter
to their report, provided to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the
House Government Reform Committee.
The idea of a research agenda stems from the National Strategy to Secure
Cyberspace, published in 2003. According to that report, the federal
government should develop a road map for addressing identified gaps in
The 2003 report recommends looking at research requirements in three
segments: near term (one to three years), midterm (three to five years)
and long term (five years or more). GAO auditors are not so concerned
about near-term efforts. But the lack of an agenda "increase[s] the risk
that mid- and longer-term research priorities may not be achieved," the
GAO report states.
GAO says agencies have made some progress in recent years. For example,
they created an interagency working group to focus on security research
and published a federal plan for guiding their research.
But that plan falls short of being the comprehensive agenda the
government requires, auditors concluded. The agenda should outline
specific milestones for conducting research, specify goals and measures
for evaluating that work, and assign responsibilities for carrying it
GAO recommends that the director of the Office of Science and Technology
Policy establish a timeline for developing such an agenda.
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