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Government Information Security Reform Act

The Government Information Security Reform Act (formerly known as the Thompson-Liebermann Act) is a federal law that required U.S. government agencies to implement an information security program that includes planning, assessment and protection. It was enacted in 2000 and replaced by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) in 2002.

Under the Government Information Security Reform Act (GISRA), agencies were required to perform risk assessments of non-classified systems, develop and implement security policies and procedures for data, develop a process for fixing security weaknesses and provide security awareness training for agency employees. In addition, agency heads were required to ensure that the information security plan was exercised throughout the lifecycle of each system, and that the program and its management, operational and  IT controls were evaluated by the appropriate agency officials.

The requirements in the GISRA were not new. The Act pulled together requirements from other federal regulations, including the Computer Security Act of 1987, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. However, unlike the other regulations, GISRA held agencies accountable by tying compliance reports to the budget cycle. Each agency had to submit its compliance report to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) annually. Agencies that did not comply with the GISRA risked losing funds. GISRA did not provide funds for assessments, however, and this caused problems with agencies’ efforts to comply with the Act.

The Act also lacked specifics regarding the type of IT controls that agencies should implement. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and OMB simply advised that protective measures should be appropriate for the level of risk posed to agency operations and assets. No single set of controls would be appropriate for every agency or even every system, but more specific standards for defined risk levels would not only have helped agencies ensure compliance, but provide a standard framework for assessment, ensure the adequate protection of shared data and reduce the effort – and resources – required to achieve GISRA compliance.

See also: Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)

Learn more:

The original memo for enacting GISRA can be found online. 

This was last updated in June 2010

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