Obama’s cyber commissioners nudge Trump on cybersecurity policy

Obama’s cyber commissioners nudge Trump on cybersecurity policy
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Members of a commission established under former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE to examine the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts are nudging the new Trump administration to move forward on its recommendations.

Three members of the commission, including former Obama national security adviser Tom Donilon, on Monday reiterated their call for more cooperation between the public and private sector and more leadership in the White House to spearhead efforts on cybersecurity. 

Sam Palmisano, former president and CEO of IBM and vice chair of the commission, said he has attended meetings at the White House to offer his input on cybersecurity policy.

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Palmisano told reporters following an event with other members of the commission at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday that he had appeared at the White House that morning to offer advice on how to modernize the government’s technology and management to help it function more like a private sector entity. 

Obama established the Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity by executive order in February 2016. The group issued a report laying out 16 recommendations to streamline and strengthen the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts last December, weeks before Obama turned over the White House to President Trump. 

The commission, for instance, recommended the president appoint an assistant to the president for cybersecurity, who would report through the national security adviser and coordinate efforts on digital security across agencies.

“I do think there needs to be the locus in the White House … that can convene the various elements of the United States government that make policy on an interagency basis,” Donilon, who chaired the commission and also served as national security adviser to Obama between 2010 and 2013, said at the event Monday morning. “No one agency is going to make policy on something as complicated as cyber.”

Donilon, who is now a partner at law firm O’Melveny & Myers, also encouraged the new administration to develop an “all-of-government deterrence” against cyberattacks by coordinating work across agencies and departments.

Trump initially signaled that he would move quickly on cybersecurity reform, announcing the signing of an executive order on cybersecurity in January that was abruptly canceled by the White House.

Palmisano, who said he has been asked to give a reaction to the revised order at another meeting at the White House this afternoon, predicted that the new executive order could be announced as soon as the end of this week. 

The White House did not respond to an email asking for confirmation of Palmisano’s attendance at the meeting. 

Donilon and other members of the commission seemed pleased that Trump is likely to hold agency heads accountable for the cybersecurity of their own organizations, a point he stressed at a news conference in January before the executive order was canceled.

“This insistence by the president that the agency, department heads are responsible for cybersecurity in their agencies and that they be held accountable is a very important piece of this,” Donilon said. “That is a contract, if you will, between the president and the people he hires to run the agencies and departments.” 

“I agree that they need responsibility, but that responsibility in my mind is a leadership role that will bring to the floor what the real issues are,” said Steven Chabinsky, a commissioner and partner at law firm White & Case, noting that federal agencies alone might not have the resources to secure their systems and procure new technologies. 

“We’re asking them to assess the environment and bring that up to this place within the White House like you’re talking about and say, here are the real challenges that we’re facing,” Chabinsky said.