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10/21/2009
01:56 PM
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Secret Service To Revamp Ailing IT Systems

In an effort to avoid 'mission failure,' the agency plans to deploy new storage systems, virtualize servers, modernize databases, and expand mobile and wireless capabilities.

After raising a red flag about its aging IT infrastructure, the Secret Service is about to undertake a major IT overhaul, the agency disclosed in an RFI on the federal government's procurement Web site.

The Secret Service seeks to upgrade to the network, storage and server infrastructure, and cybersecurity capabilities that support more than 175 field offices and temporary locations worldwide. It plans to issue a request for proposals in December or January and to award a contract in March.

Among the issues the agency needs to address are inadequate network bandwidth and an outdated server infrastructure, including an unreliable 20-year-old IBM mainframe that runs 42 applications. It plans to move from an EMC storage infrastructure to one that's more vendor-agnostic, virtualize servers, provide mobile messaging, implement a wireless LAN, and modernize its database architecture.

The project will be the first of several steps to upgrade the Secret Service's IT capabilities. Future plans call for IP communications, improving interoperability with White House systems, upgrading law enforcement capabilities such as threat management and electronic crimes investigation, upgrading HR and logistics applications, and adding access controls.

IT plays a key role in the Secret Service's mission by supporting communications, threat management, and the agency's efforts to ward off computer fraud and cyber attacks. In its annual budget request to Congress earlier this year, the Secret Service warned that it could face challenges if Congress didn't increase its IT budget by $34 million, more than 30%, to fund the upgrades. The budget request was approved by Congress, then went to President Obama.

"The stark reality is that without a major infrastructure overhaul, Secret Service faces the prospect of near-term mission failure," the budget request said. "The network and mainframe system used today struggles to support basic operations and is incapable of handling emerging real-time mission intelligence and decision-support requirements."

The request described the agency's network as "vulnerable and at risk" and its ability to share information "minimal." It warned that "the distraction of technical issues increases the possibility of harm" to someone under the Secret Service's watch.



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