More than 80 percent of the employees who work at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration telecommute at least one day a week.
Teleworking is not a new concept for the TIGTA. The independent Treasury agency has been letting employees work outside the office since 2003. But the importance and desire for more telecommuting is putting a strain on TIGTA’s computer network.
George Jakabcin, the TIGTA chief information officer, said his top goal is ensure the agency’s IT infrastructure is robust enough for employees to meet their broad mission.
“Our investigators could be out on the street 24/7 predicated by the threat and circumstances, and we need to make sure we can support them no matter what the circumstances may be,” he said. “While we can plan for certain events, hurricanes, snow storms, those sorts of things you can see, but you can’t predict human error, human actions, thunderstorms that come up suddenly or earthquakes and how do we position ourselves to be able to be responsive to those in a minimally disruptive fashion?”
Jakabcin said part of the way TIGTA is ensuring employees are prepared for anything is is by a purchase of 1,100 new laptops. While he couldn’t say much about the plan because it’s in the middle of the acquisition phase, Jakabcin said TIGTA is taking several other steps to take full advantage of the new hardware.
“We have recently revitalized and rebuilt our virtual private network foundation core to now include wireless capability,” he said. “We are still piloting that with a larger group of users, but we are very excited and very confident we have put together a very rock solid configuration. That wireless configuration is not limited to broadband, but it allows for WiFi connectivity. There are rules of engagement that need to be observed for all of these things.”
He said security is a huge issue for the agency.
“We have pieces from three separate vendors that are integrated as part of this solution and we have a little bit of custom code sitting on top of that preventing some other things from happening,” Jakabcin said. “We’ve had it tested. We’ve had the code we wrote tested. I’m proud to say we found one vulnerability that could have been exploited, which we corrected before we put it out in the test environment. The testers that came in and looked at this and said in 17 years of doing this they hadn’t seen anything quite this good.”
Jakabcin said there are risks, but the hope is they have extended the ability to connect securely in wireless fashion.
He said there are 130 people in the wireless VPN pilot.
TIGTA is not looking at tablet computers as of now, he said. The agency did research on the devices and found they didn’t meet their needs.
In addition to the upgrade to the VPN, Jakabcin said about 50 percent of their servers are virtualized, creating a private cloud for employees to pull data from anywhere, at anytime.