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Tag Archives: increased infections

It’s rare that two of my passions—food and information security—intersect, but thanks to the USDA’s announcement of their Blueprint For Stronger Service, I can touch on both in one post.

In 2011, the Obama administration challenged all departments to reduce costs in a effort dubbed the “Campaign to Cut Waste“. In response, the USDA has managed to trim annual expenses by $150 million through a number of efforts. One such effort is to close 259 domestic USDA offices (you can see which states are impacted below).

I’m going to expand on why this is a bad idea over at #nom later this week, but 2011 was not a good year in terms of controlling food poisoning in the United States and I don’t think closing offices will make for better oversight.

Other efforts focus on the elimination of redundancies and inefficiencies. The Blueprint has 27 initial (or to-be-implemented immediately) improvements that include the following:

  • Consolidate more than 700 cell phone plans into about 10
  • Standardize civil rights training and purchases of cyber security products
  • Centralize civil rights, human resource, procurement, and property management functions

So, they were either getting gouged by suppliers (unlikely since there is negotiated pricing for the government) or the USDA’s “cyber-security” strategy was severely fragmented (and, thus, broken) enough that even finance folks could see the problem. Regardless of the source, it had to be pretty bad to make it to the top three of 27 immediate items (and called out in every sub-department press release) and even more so amongst over 160 initiatives that are being or have been put in place.

I still cannot find the details of the plan or budget analysis that went into the focus on cyber security products (links appreciated if you have them), but as private organizations continue their efforts to defend against existing and emerging threats, it might be worth a look at your strategy and spend a bit more closely. Would your infosec department be included in a similar list if your organization went through such a sweeping cost-cutting analysis program? Is your portfolio of security products as optimized as it can be? Could you use a budget sweep as an opportunity to leap frog your security capabilities (e.g. move to whitelisting vs signature-based anti-malware) vs just pressure your existing vendors and re-negotiate contracts?

Unfortunately, the government being the government, I’m now even more concerned that the USDA may need to worry about increased infections on both the food-level and the “cyber” level.