Information Technology — A Key Tool
My posting on July 13 listed Information Technology (IT) management as one of NASA’s six cross-cutting strategies of mission support. IT Management ensures the Agency aligns information system investments with its mission needs; efficiently implements, operates and integrates its information systems; and appropriately assures the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information within these systems.
NASA has long relied on IT as a key tool to enable the achievement of its mission. However, our processes for selecting and managing IT investments and implementation traditionally have been focused on the accomplishment of individual programs with limited focus on ensuring that IT supports the integration of information and processes across programs and Centers. This approach to managing IT has led to (1) inefficiencies, (2) challenges in information security, and (3) stovepiped IT infrastructures that make it difficult for people to work across organizational boundaries.
For example, our current model for protecting the networks at each of our Centers is not consistently implemented. This adversely affects our mission as it makes it extremely difficult for engineers working at different Centers to collaborate on designs using automated tools. Also, you have probably noticed cases where different IT tools have been implemented by different organizations in order to solve similar or duplicative problems. We need to leverage existing tools to eliminate unnecessary duplication. This will save the Centers and NASA money and reduce integration complexity.
Collaboration across Centers
Our ability to succeed in the future requires that we maximize our capability or capacity to work collaboratively across Centers, drive efficiencies, and to adequately secure our information and information systems. Because IT is so important to our future success, we are placing significant attention on transforming our current IT management processes and IT infrastructure to meet the emerging needs of the Agency.
The NASA CIO, Jonathan Pettus, has developed an overall strategy for improving IT. The strategy is centered on a governance model that allows for alignment of IT solutions with mission needs, a framework and management model for the collective IT infrastructure going forward, a portfolio approach for organizing and managing applications and integration standards at multiple levels, a strategy to create better visibility into the IT budget and allow for improved decision making, and a plan for improving IT security. I have asked the CIO to provide updates over the next several months on the IT strategy based on the work of several teams he has in place working the detailed implementation plans and frameworks.
Implementing the IT management strategy likely will require some organizational changes in how NASA delivers IT services. We already are in the process of merging the Integrated Enterprise Management Program (IEMP) office with the Office of the CIO to better align the management of IT within the Agency. IEMP is an Agency-wide transformation of NASA’s business systems and processes to improve NASA’s fiscal and management accountability. This is the first organizational realignment aimed at placing IT management authority under the CIO. Similar to engineering being performed by Mission Directorates, procurement conducted by contracting officers under procurement organizations, legal matters being handled by general counsel, etc., I feel it is important for information technology to be provided by the CIO and for the CIO to be held accountable for providing it in a manner that meets NASA’s mission and federal regulations. The CIO will be the institutional authority for NASA IT.
Key Initiatives Underway
I also want to take this opportunity to reiterate my support for some key initiatives underway that will improve the state of IT security within the Agency, provide efficiencies for NASA, and better enable the IT infrastructure to support the mission.
- The IT system certification and accreditation (C&A) effort is progressing very well and I expect nearly all of NASA’s systems to achieve C&A by October 1, 2007. This process is designed to ensure that our IT systems are categorized according to their criticality and that the appropriate security controls are documented and in place to protect each system based on its criticality. Further, C&A is required by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
- The work under Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-12 will greatly enhance IT security by eventually allowing badges to be used to access critical IT systems.
- The migration of all Agency email systems to the NASA NOMAD system is progressing well and will provide efficiencies and improved collaboration capability for the Agency. Our existing e-mail infrastructure was implemented as if NASA consisted of at least ten separate companies. NOMAD changes that by providing one, integrated e-mail system for all of NASA. The e-mail system is based on commercial off-the-shelf software that has sufficient capability to filter spam and viruses and protect personally identifiable information, and has other features needed for large government organizations.
Although these initiatives can be difficult because they represent a change from the status quo, they are intended to move us forward toward the goals of integration, information, and improved security — all critical to the achievement of our ultimate mission.
Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Groundbreaking
On July 16, I participated in the GSFC Exploration Sciences Building groundbreaking ceremony with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, GSFC Director Ed Weiler, and Director, GSFC Sciences and Exploration Directorate Laurie Leshin. The Exploration Sciences Building is a major component of the Goddard Space Flight Center Facilities Master Plan. It was built, not with funding from a construction of facilities account, but a very small tax over several years on all the programs that would benefit from such a building. This was done without sacrificing science, raising overhead, or breaking the bank.
This “green building” will consist of a two-story laboratory wing and a three-story office wing. When the Exploration Sciences Building is completed in 2009, this state-of-the-art facility will house more than 500 scientists and administrative personnel performing research in earth science, astrophysics, heliophysics and solar system exploration. The goal of the building is to bring scientists together for purposes of teamwork and research. The layout of this “green building” will allow for collaboration areas for scientists to perform cutting-edge research, prototype and instrument development.
This is NASA’s largest “green building” and is slated for a silver rating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. This rating signifies NASA’s high level of commitment to incorporating environmentally friendly design and construction practices.