OMB Wants a Direct Report

Posted August 28th, 2009 by

The big news in OMB’s M-09-29 FY 2009 Reporting Instructions for the Federal Information Security Management Act and Agency Privacy Management is that instead of fiddling with document files reporting will now be done directly through an online tool. This has been covered elsewhere and it is the one big change since last year.  However having less paper in the paperwork is not the only change.

Piles of Paper photo by °Florian.

So what will this tool be like? It is hard to tell at this point. Some information will be entered directly but the system appears designed to accept uploads of some documents, such as those supporting M-07-16. Similar to the spreadsheets used for FY 2008 there will be separate questions for the Chief Information Officer, Inspector General and Senior Agency Official for Privacy. Microagencies will still have abbreviated questions to fill out. Additional information on the automated tool, including full instructions and a beta version will be available in August, 2009.

Given the required information has changed very little the automated system is unlikely to significantly ease the reporting burden. This system appears primarily designed to ease the data processing requirements for OMB. With Excel spreadsheets no longer holding data many concerns relating to file versions, data aggregation and analysis are greatly eased.

It is worth noting that a common outcome of systems re-engineered to become more efficient is that managers look to find ways to utilize the new efficiency. What does this mean? Now that OMB has the ability to easily analyze data which took a great amount of effort to process before they may want to improve what is reported. A great deal has been said over the years about the inefficiencies in the current reporting regime. This may be OMB’s opportunity to start collecting an increased amount of information that may better reflect agencies actual security posture. This is pure speculation and other factors may moderate OMB’s next steps, such as the reporting burden on agencies, but it is worth consideration.

One pleasant outcome to the implementation of this new automated tool is the reporting deadline has been pushed back to November 18, 2009.

Agencies are still responsible for submitting document files to satisfy M-07-16. The automated tool does not appear to allow direct input of this information. However the document requirements are slightly different. Breach notification policy document need only be submitted if it has changed. It is no longer sufficient to simply report progress on eliminating SSNs and reducing PII, an implementation plan and a progress update must be submitted. The requirement for a policy document covering rules of behavior and consequences has been removed.

In addition to the automated tool there are other, more subtle changes to OMB’s FY 2009 reporting. Let’s step through them, point by point:

10. It is reiterated that NIST guidance is required. This point has been expanded to state that legacy systems, agencies have one year to come into compliance with NIST documents new material. For new systems agencies are expected to be in compliance upon system deployment.

13 & 15. Wording indicating that disagreements on reports should be resolved prior to submission and that the agency head’s view will be authoritative have been removed. This may have been done to reduce redundancy as M-09-29’s preface indicates agency reports must reflect the agency head’s view.

52. The requirement for an central web page with working links to agency PIAs and Federal Register published SORNs has been removed.

A complete side-by-side comparison of changes between the two documents is available at

All in all the changes to OMB’s guidance this year will not change agencies reporting burden significantly. And that may not be a bad thing.

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Posted in FISMA, NIST, Public Policy | 1 Comment »

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  1.  Top 3 NoVA Infosec Blog Posts of the Week | Says:

    […] changes to the OMB in his post “OMB Wants a Direct Report.” You can read the full post here, on the Guerilla […]

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