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Senate to probe security of federal networks

Top-level information technology executives will testify before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday to answer questions about how well agencies protect sensitive data.

Comment on this article in the forum.Karen Evans, e-government administrator at the Office of Management and Budget, and information technology chiefs from the Government Accountability Office and the State and Veterans Affairs departments will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Federal Financial Management Subcommittee. Cyber Security Industry Alliance President Tim Bennett will provide perspective from the private sector.

Subcommittee members want to examine whether agencies are doing enough to protect government information technology and secure sensitive data.

The hearing will follow OMB's fiscal 2007 report to Congress on agencies' compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act, which was first passed in 2002 and was intended to improve information security in civilian agencies.

Although FISMA was a positive step forward at the time, key decision makers still cannot accurately say whether or not computer networks are secure, the committee states on its hearing notice.

The hearing is an encore performance for Bennett and Evans, who testified on FISMA last month before the House Oversight and Government Reform Information Policy Subcommittee.

At that hearing, Bennett told lawmakers FISMA does not tell the whole story when it comes to agencies' information security practices. Nowhere is an agency's ability to detect and respond to intrusions measured in FISMA, he said.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will testify before the House Science Committee Wednesday about efforts needed to boost U.S. competitiveness and innovation. The hearing will likely be Gates' final congressional testimony before leaving his post at Microsoft in the summer to work full-time for his foundation.

It will also kick off a series of hearings marking the committee's 50th anniversary, which will focus on the country's technological advances over the past half-century and the challenges ahead.

Gates last testified about a year ago before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he stressed the importance of sustaining a highly skilled workforce and overhauling immigration policies to help the United States recruit the most talented high-tech professionals.

On Thursday morning, Gates will speak at a Northern Virginia Technology Council breakfast. At the event, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 attendees, he will highlight Microsoft's contribution to the local economy and touch upon the need for investments in K-12 and collegiate science, technology, engineering and math education.

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