Firms weigh in on national plan

The information technology and communications sectors May 13 formally submitted their input on the latest version of the plan for securing the nation's critical infrastructure.

Richard Clarke, President Bush's cyberspace security adviser, is leading development of the national plan. A new version, which the administration expects to release this summer, will fully include the private sector for the first time. The first national plan, released in January 2000, focused primarily on the federal government's critical infrastructure protection (CIP) priorities.

Industry groups, including the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association and the Information Technology Association of America, serve as sector leads for the IT and communications sector under Presidential Decision Directive 63.

President Clinton signed PDD-63 in 1998, requiring agencies and industry to protect the information systems that support the nation's critical infrastructure, such as banking and transportation.

Input from the industry groups ranged from identifying problems to a discussion of the possible next steps. Ideas include:

* Identifying a series of "first principles" to guide any action taken by the sectors to respond to the CIP challenge.

* Noting that the IT and communications sectors must not only protect their own operations, but also consider that every other sector relies on the infrastructure provided by these two sectors.

* Examining the differences between the regulated communications sector and the unregulated IT sector, and considering the role government must play in helping to protect each.

* Recognizing that the IT and communications markets are in constant flux, and considering steps to protect the infrastructure in that environment.

Clarke and members of the CIP Board, formed by Bush in October, earlier this month launched a series of town hall meetings to be held across the country to gather input from every part of the private sector. The first meeting will be May 16 in Denver, with meetings May 30 in Chicago, June 6 in Portland, Ore., and June 18 in Atlanta.

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