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Technology - Annual Report 2011

The Administrative Office works to blend robust national technology solutions with innovative information technology approaches developed at the local level by the federal courts.

Judges, court unit executives, and clerks guide AO technology plans and advise about innovative local court information technology approaches.

Judges, court unit executives, and clerks guide AO technology plans and advise about innovative local court information technology approaches.

Strengthening the Judiciary's Information Technology Security

The Judiciary Information Technology Security Program promotes the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information associated with all forms of technology used by the Judiciary. In FY 2011, the AO, in partnership with the courts, created several new programs designed to promote security, including:

Judiciary Information Security Framework

This resource, and the advisory services supporting its implementation, offer a uniform approach to security risk management for individual courts and centrally managed IT programs at the AO. The Framework proposes an intuitive, six-step model for managing information security risks. Stakeholders across the Judiciary reviewed the model, and it was validated in pilot tests.

Guide to Implementing the Judiciary Information Security Framework

The Framework Guide instructs IT practitioners how to implement the Information Security Framework. It offers a comprehensive compendium of safeguards based on security best practices tailored to the Judiciary. Each court selects the combination of safeguards appropriate to its environment. An online self-help portal and AO advisory services support successful use of the Framework Guide.

Security Operations Center (SOC) Mentoring Program

This program promotes court and AO information sharing and collaboration that strengthens local security programs and builds awareness of activities performed at the national level to protect Judiciary information. Program participants practice responding to network intrusions and executing security assessments. They also receive hands-on training in security technologies available to the courts through enterprise licensing agreements. Since this program began in December 2010, 43 courts have participated in the program, and additional courts are signed up for FY 2012.

The Committee on Information Technology endorsed the Framework in June and strongly encouraged courts to use it. During FY 2012, the AO will promote adoption of the Framework and the Framework Guide and will add to IT security resources for the courts.

Data Communications Network Transitions to New Service

In 2011, the Judiciary completed transition of its entire data communications network (DCN) from Sprint to AT&T. This major overhaul of the national communications infrastructure paved the way for a wide range of important new benefits for the courts, including unified communications and the Next Generation of CM/ECF.

Intensive, long-term collaboration between court IT staff and the AO resulted in a seamless transition, without disruption in court operations, despite the enormous scale of this effort:

Judiciary-Wide Internet Protocol Telecommunications

The Judiciary is implementing a next-generation telecommunications service to enhance communications performance and reliability, and deliver converged voice, data, and video services over the DCN. The National IP Telephone (National IPT) service will make electronic collaboration tools practical, such as desktop video- and audio-conferencing.

The AO-funded National IPT service is now provided to courts replacing legacy phone systems, moving into new or renovated space, or replacing old phone switches. The National IPT service covers all operational, maintenance, upgrade, and cyclical replacement needs at no cost to court units. Ten court units and three AO locations volunteered to pilot the new capability during calendar year 2011, and many courts have expressed an interest in using the service. The service will be expanded to additional courts during 2012.

Support for Mobile Computing

Since the AO implemented a national infrastructure allowing Judiciary employees to access Lotus Notes email on BlackBerry phones in 2005, Judiciary staff use of mobile email has skyrocketed, and the variety of mobile devices has proliferated. The AO continues to respond to this rapidly changing market with technology that allows Judiciary staff to have email service and features delivered to BlackBerry devices, iPhones, iPads, and, most recently, Android smart phones and tablets.

By making the service available for both court-provided and personally-owned devices, the AO gives courts the potential to save hardware and telecommunications costs that would otherwise be incurred if they had to rely only on court-provided devices.

Use of Information Technology to Increase Efficiency and Avoid Costs

In 2011, the AO collaborated with the courts to help them operate more efficiently and to procure more cost-effective equipment and services. Examples of services that courts may request are:

IT Security Assessments

In FY 2011, AO IT security staff completed 25 IT security assessments in the courts. An onsite security team evaluates the court's IT security posture with an initial data exchange, followed by a comprehensive analysis of technological safeguards, related procedures, and operating environment. A confidential written report to the court describes vulnerabilities, and prioritizes recommended improvements. The court determines remediation efforts it will take, and may request AO support. This service is fully subscribed for 2012.

Local Area Network Assessments

In FY 2011, AO technology staff conducted 26 Local Area Network (LAN) assessments. After an onsite evaluation of a court's LAN, AO staff provide the court a confidential written report of findings, along with prioritized recommendations for improving LAN stability and reliability. Courts are advised how to take advantage of new converged voice, video, and data services over the DCN. If the court's LAN needs to be upgraded, the AO may provide engineering assistance.

Wireless Telecommunications Expense Management Service (WTEMS)

In FY 2011, the AO encouraged courts to enroll in WTEMS, a new program to help reduce the cost of a court's telecommunications program, including hand-held and other remote devices, and reduce time court staff spend managing wireless programs. A free optimization audit is followed by a report recommending improvements. Then, courts may enroll in WTEMS for a monthly fee. Sixty-six courts enrolled in FY 2011.

Contract Vehicles That Reduce Costs

In FY 2011, the AO continued to pursue national contracts to help courts control costs for purchasing personal computers, printers, servers, software, network equipment, and support services. During FY 2011, three new national Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) were created; four existing BPAs and Enterprise Agreements were renewed; and nine option-year extensions were approved.