GAO: Departments lag on FISMA controls

GAO: Departments lag on FISMA controls
GAO: Departments lag on FISMA controls 

By Mary Mosquera
October 2, 2007

Some of the agencies most critically involved with the countrys security 
still have not fully implemented key provisions of the Federal 
Information Security Management Act five years after the act was passed. 
The Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State departments especially 
face challenges in establishing information security control activities 
that FISMA and the Office of Management and Budget require, the 
Government Accountability Office said.

The challenges for these agencies arose from various weaknesses, such as 
inadequate tools and gaps and inconsistencies in guidance, GAO said.

For example, DOD has difficulty developing a complete inventory of major 
systems because it has different definitions of what constitutes a 
system. DHS cannot be sure all users have received the appropriate 
security training because its application counts the number of security 
courses completed but does not indicate whether someone has taken a 
specialized course, GAO said in the Oct. 1 report.

These agencies also had problems correcting deficiencies and weaknesses, 
ensuring that employees receive information security training, and 
testing security controls. Of the four agencies, only Justice had 
accomplished full certification and accreditation of systems, and only 
State had implemented a common security configuration.

Until the departments address their challenges and fully implement 
effective departmentwide information security programs, increased risk 
exists that they will not be able to effectively protect the 
confidentiality, integrity and availability of their information and 
information systems, said Gregory Wilshusen, GAOs director of 
information security issues, in his report.

DHS, Justice and State generally agreed with GAOs recommendations. DOD, 
however, disagreed with three of six recommendations.

In general, this office does not believe the draft report accurately 
reflects the current security posture of the Department of Defense nor 
does it consider initiatives undertaken and progress the department has 
made in implementing the provisions of the Federal Information Security 
Management Act of 2002 over the last five years, said Robert Lentz, 
deputy assistant secretary of Defense for information and identity 

Examples of GAOs recommendations include:

    * For DOD, to develop and apply a plan with milestones to finalize 
      and implement a departmentwide definition of a major information 
    * For DHS, to coordinate with its workforce office to finalize 
      deployment of the centralized online learning management system 
      for tracking the IT security training of employees.
    * For Justice, to reconcile duplications in its remediation plan 
      tracking tool.
    * For State, to strengthen its security control testing policies and 
      ensure that its component agencies complete the required annual 
      security control and contingency plan testing on all systems.

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