Cybersecurity a key focus for GSA office

Comprised of five offices, the U.S. General Services Administration's Office of Government-wide Policy is tasked with policy-making that covers a diverse range of topics and areas. One of the five offices within the OGP is the Office of Information, Integrity, and Access. As OGP Chief of Staff Stephanie Rivera recently highlighted in a conversation with Federal News Radio, this office's key focuses remain identity security and cybersecurity.

Security and the OGP
As Rivera explained, the OGP's emphasis on this issue is critical for ensuring that the U.S. government as a whole is fully protected from digital threats.

"For identity security and cybersecurity, one of the big challenges is getting everybody on board, all the federal agencies," said Rivera, according to the news source.

Part of the problem, according to Rivera, is that there is a lack of uniformity among the different government bodies.

"It's large and complex and everyone has a different system, so what we're trying to do is write the standards and the regulations that would allow all of these different systems to talk to each other in a very secure way," Rivera said, according to Federal News Radio.

The OGP chief of staff went on to explain that the task of protecting government data and systems from cyberthreats is further complicated by the lack of predictability inherent to technology. As new solutions evolve, so, too, do the threats that government agencies must combat. The OGP's Office of Information, Integrity, and Access strives to prepare for these issues by looking ahead to upcoming technological advancements.

"Right now we have numerous programs that are all looking to see what's going to be coming up next in the technology world," Rivera told the news source. "And we're very focused on security at the moment, so, what's nice is that we know what our systems currently are. We don't know what tomorrow's systems are, but if we can be prepared for the systems today, we will be able to make adjustments that will help us tomorrow."

Personnel issue
As the U.S. government ramps up its efforts to combat cybersecurity threats, agencies also must deal with a number of obstacles beyond the lack of IT uniformity. Key among these is the difficulty of attracting and retaining IT talent. As Businessweek reported, the FBI and Pentagon plan to significantly increase their cybersecurity staff in the near future.

However, many experts in this field choose instead to work in the private sector, due to better compensation and less bureaucracy. The news source noted that despite spending $45 million annually on the cybersecurity recruitment project CyberCorps (also known as Scholarship for Service), this effort has only produced 1,554 graduates.

If government agencies are not able to meet their hiring goals, departments will inevitably struggle to ensure the security of their systems, regardless of the policies put into place.