It Gets Worse
When government agencies such as the DHS fail to disclose detailed expenses, the possibility for mismanagement increases, critics say. The DHS has already been hit with complaints that DHS funds are being wasted on contracted projects such as a $10 billion system to screen foreign visitors based on outdated technology, $500 million for cargo radiation detectors that rarely work and myriad purchases by local police departmentsin areas at little risk for terrorismof items ranging from biohazard containment trucks to underwater robot cameras. Taking issue with the assertion that the DHS is not leading by example, Purdy said NCSD is pushing the countrys largest software vendors very hard to improve their products.A recent audit found that the DHSs IT security is still lacking. Click here to read more. Many of NCSDs programs involve establishing forums and coordinating meetings and workshops among government agencies and between the government and the private sector. This month alone, NCSD will host or co-host meetings in Silicon Valley; Annapolis, Md.; and Washington. There will be a major software assurance conference with the private sector next month as well. However, successfully partnering with the private sector remains one of DHS greatest cyber-security challenges, according to the GAO, which judged the department as having failed in the task so far. Some of the partners the DHS seeks, however, remain reluctant to turn over sensitive data to the government because they do not see the gesture as reciprocal and because they fear the data will end up in the wrong hands. Acknowledging the difficulty of developing trusting relationships, Coburn recently urged the department to take greater strides in information sharing, saying that "there can be no excuse for not effectively engaging the private sector, even though it is hard." The information-sharing problems are not within NCSD, according to Purdy. While the DHS cyber-security goals and achievements remain too murky to quantify, its too early to tell whether the agency has let its guard down on cyber-security. DHS watchers should look for evidence of a "sharpening blade" in coming yearssigns that the DHS is becoming a more potent force in cyber-security, Sachs said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on government and politics.
"They know how important it is for them to raise the bar," he said. "Its going to be a longer-term challenge. Its really hard to measure."