the Statistical Engineering Division still need to be more fully integrated into the ITL's activities and mission.
NIST's historic culture of openness creates a potentially serious problem when applied to its computer networks. The current firewall situation is inadequate and leaves NIST open to a potentially damaging and embarrassing intrusion. The process of ensuring that the entire organization is protected by a centrally maintained firewall system is proceeding much too slowly; strong managerial action is required to remedy this dangerous situation in an efficient and timely manner.
The ITL continues to refine the process by which older programs are selected for termination and new areas are chosen for funding. The panel applauds the progress that has been made so far and supports efforts to continue to improve the process.
Several divisions in ITL have experienced difficulties in interacting with the Department of Commerce's legal services divisions. The two examples in most desperate need of being resolved soon are the year-long failure to finalize the arrangements with the University of Maryland for a joint institute for information technology and the 2-year delay in approval for NIST to join the World Wide Web Consortium. Other cases of inefficiency, such as months taken to obtain a nondisclosure agreement, have also been observed.
The panel again recommends that the ITL more actively gather data on the results and consequences of its technical activities. More organized, quantitative tracking of interactions and outcomes would make it easier for NIST to justify the value of the work performed in this laboratory.
Information technology is a dynamic area with an extremely high demand for skilled people in all roles. NIST must find creative ways to attract and retain employees at all education and skill levels; this effort should include exploring ways to arrange increased compensation for such employees.
ITL management has been especially responsive to the panel's previous suggestions and to its requests for information. The panel is grateful for this excellent cooperation.