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When President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act
in 2002, government IT leaders and policymakers went to work on a grand plan to transform a hodgepodge of select civilian agencies into an IT-powered defensive force.
Creating the Department of Home- land Security involved reorganizing agencies based on their technology resources and workforce expertise into a super-agency capable of mounting operations against terrorism, an effort that would ultimately absorb 22 agen- cies and 170,000 federal workers at an annual cost of $37.2 billion.
An early qualification for participat- ing agencies was having the tools and capabilities to help build a strong back- bone for nationwide sharing of infor- mation and services. DHS officials, for example, explored using the U.S. Cus- toms Service’s Automated Commercial Environment to connect agencies via unified networking features.
ACE was designed to put Customs’ systems on one network that linked entry points at U.S. borders and ports.
It provided a way to strengthen border security by improving the collection, sharing and processing of $1 trillion in annual imports and exports.
Those features made ACE a candi- date for use in a Transportation Security Administration project designed to screen passenger lists and manifests from inter- national flights for irregularities.
As tools like those expanded to fill in gaps in the federal government’s defen- sive perimeter, DHS’ cybersecurity war chest grew with it.
The Einstein program, established in 2004, was an early intrusion-detection system that monitored agency network gateways for unauthorized traffic. A sec- ond version, developed with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, helped collect traffic flow in real time and scanned it for malicious code.
Einstein gave way to more sophisti- cated security tools that are being used to the present day to manage federal net- works, including DHS’ Continuous Diag- nostics and Mitigation (CDM) program.
With more sensor capacity, auto- mated data collection and managed risk alerts, the CDM program has equipped agency network managers with dash- boards that flag and prioritize the seri- ousness of threats based on a risk-scor- ing system.
The concentration of tools and poli- cies gave DHS the ability to rise to sev- eral recent challenges, including the Federal Risk and Authorization Man- agement Program for cloud security and a “cyber sprint” ordered by U.S. CIO Tony Scott after the massive Office of Personnel Management data breaches in 2015. n
In November 2002, then-President George W. Bush signed a bill into law creating a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security.
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