Group Plans to Bridge Cybersecurity Efforts Across Presidential Terms

Posted on Jul 25, 2015

While the U.S. hasn't been free of malicious cyberattacks during Barack Obama's presidency, there's little argument that his administration has brought online security to the forefront of discussion. Between relatively frequent public mentions of the need for secure networks and pushing federal departments and agencies to take cybersecurity into account, it's obviously been a priority. Notable advances include legislation currently working its way through Congress, which will offer significant protections to businesses and government agencies should the bill pass.

"Coordinating the transition between the current president and the next is a critical step in maintaining cybersecurity continuity."

Think tank takes action

One of the more pressing issues related to cybersecurity and presidential leadership isn't the actions of the current administration but the potential decisions of future ones. With President Obama's term coming to an end early in 2016, coordinating the transition between the current president and the next one is a crucial step in maintaining cybersecurity continuity on the federal level. Government news source The Federal Times reported the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent Washington, D.C.-based bipartisan think tank, has assembled a group of industry experts to develop a transition plan for the incoming administration, no matter which candidate wins the election.

Such an effort is especially important considering the higher-than-usual number of preliminary candidates and the wide-ranging platforms they represent. Without a transition plan in place, the current initiatives of the Obama administration may be cast aside, significantly altered or forgotten. The CSIS task force's report and the suggestions contained therein center around a smooth transition from President Obama's platform to that of the next Commander in Chief.

"You don't want to lose the momentum that this administration is creating with the things that they're doing," Karen Evans, U.S. Cyber Challenge director and advisor to the task force, said to The Federal Times. "You don't want a new administration [to come in] and have a hiatus where things aren't happening."

A good track record
The current group isn't the first cybersecurity task force assembled by the CSIS. Ahead of the previous administrative change in 2008, the think tank assembled a similar group that produced a report for the incoming president. According to group members who spoke to The Federal Times, the report's suggestions have remained relevant despite its age and the rapid pace of development in terms of digital services and cybersecurity in particular.

Homeland Security chief weighs in
A recent column in Politico, written by Department of Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson, lays out that agency's current position on cybersecurity. Specifically, Johnson said the federal government needs to improve its efforts to stop hackers from malicious entry into the databases of U.S. government organizations and businesses. The DHS manages the federal government's monitoring and collaboration hub for such incidents, which also includes more than 100 private, non-governmental entities.

Johnson emphasized the need for the DHS specifically and the federal government in general to work more closely with the business world. Without fuller participation, there will still be plenty of holes in the country's cybersecurity efforts. Johnson mentioned certain enticements for companies, such as liability protections for the information shared by private organizations.

The present and the future
There are a number of positive developments coming for both government agencies and businesses in the short and long term. However, it's not a good idea to simply wait for legislation, that may still be a ways off. Public and private sector organizations have to take individual measures to realize the highest level of security. These measures won't become redundant in the face of improved federal cybersecurity, but they will provide a more complete and effective defense against malicious intrusions.

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