DoJ's Hitch looks back on a decade of IT changes

Thursday - 7/21/2011, 7:06pm EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

When Van Hitch announced last month he was retiring in July after almost a decade as the Justice Department's chief information officer, he felt like it was the end of a second career.

Hitch, who spent 28 years working for Accenture, became Justice CIO shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. He is one of the longest serving CIOs at a major department.

"It was a really difficult and emotional time for country and I just felt I just wanted to do something, public service to help the government in a difficult time and I felt I had skills that could be useful so I looked for some opportunity and this one came along, which was fantastic," he said about why he joined the government. "I was immediately attracted to Justice because of its mission and close connections to what happened on 9-11."

When Hitch looked back over his time at DoJ, he pointed to three main areas where he believes the most change occurred: cybersecurity, information sharing and social media and mobile computing.

Hitch, who is the co-chairman of the CIO Council's Information Security and Identity Management Committee, said the government's focus and attitude toward cybersecurity has come alive.

"We got the opportunity by applying some tools we could actually see what was happening to our network," he said. "We could see we were not impenetrable and that we were having some incidents, and we were able to contain them, but we've got to do some things to give us a better predictor of where these things are coming from and prevent them from happening. So making that case across our management team to help them understand what the real potential threat was and the things we needed to do to position ourselves to better identify, analyze, defend and respond to the different kind of things we were encountering, that is where we came into a good situation."

Hitch said the Veterans Affairs Department's loss of the records of 26 million veterans in 2005 was the incident that senior officials could get their arms around to understand risk and the investment needed to protect data.

He said the CIO Council is working with White House cyber coordinator Howard Schmidt on new anti-phishing guidance for agencies.

"They will cover ways for good hygiene to prevent it, when it happens, how do you react to it? And the whole panoply of different kind of actions you need to take to react to that risk," he said.

Hitch said the security committee also will focus on mobile computing in the near future.

Justice also is trying to figure out how to let employees use different types of mobile devices on its network.

Hitch said Justice is developing a new mobile computing policy.

"We are in the process of evolving the policy because that is what I found with social media as well as mobile computing, we have to take it in steps," he said. "We take pilots and we work through what the policy will be on interim basis on the pilots, and then we learn from it and we evolve the policy."

As for his future, Hitch said he will take a few months off before deciding what comes next. And, no, he doesn't know who will be the next Justice CIO.

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