White House links innovation and cybersecurity

Rob Joyce NSA/WH 

White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce discussed how the coming cybersecurity executive order connects with the recently announced Office of American Innovation, led by Jared Kushner.

The White House is close to finalizing its long-awaited cyber executive order, and there are growing questions over how authorities for modernizing and securing federal IT will be split between the National Security Council and the new Office of American Innovation.

Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator delivered his first public remarks at the Georgetown Conference on Cyber Engagement on April 24, and he said the order is "close and nearby."

He indicated the timing of the release is less about finalizing the order than about finding the right news cycle opportunity, as a number of former officials have been speculating to FCW in recent weeks.

"I think the important focus on this is we want to make sure the cybersecurity EO emerges … in sequence with other things that the administration is rolling out so that we don't distract from other important messages that are out there," Joyce said.

In his remarks, Joyce ran through the same overarching administration priorities that homeland security advisor Tom Bossert outlined in a March address at the Center for International and Security Studies.

The primary focus of the administration when it comes to cybersecurity will be to protect federal IT infrastructure. That will involve modernizing systems and moving toward shared services and commercial solutions in an effort to raise the standards for smaller agencies that do not have the budget and workforce to focus on cybersecurity the way the Department of Defense does, Joyce said.

While that overall policy goal will be reflected in the EO, he said, it is looking more like the NSC will play a supporting role to Jared Kushner's new Office of American Innovation, which is charged in part with modernizing federal IT.

"I'm pleased to be a part of that so I get to participate in, my staff gets to participate in, those meetings," Joyce said. The emphasis on shared services, cloud and other technical reforms, he said, "means a refresh, [and] also means an opportunity to wire in from the ground up cybersecurity."

He said his team will work with Kushner's office to ensure cybersecurity is incorporated in modernization efforts from the beginning.

When asked by a reporter after his talk about whether IT modernization expenditures will be driven by the EO or the innovation office, Joyce said, "We'll make sure that those activities are closely aligned … it will be a little bit of both."

All of this connects with the administration's goal to enshrine a comprehensive enterprise risk management approach to federal IT. That will begin, Joyce said, with each agency conducting a comprehensive review of its IT architecture and infrastructure in order to get to a whole-of-government enterprise view.

The executive order will also make agency heads responsible for cybersecurity at their agencies. Joyce stopped short of saying that cabinet secretaries could be fired if their agencies experience any breaches going forward.

"The idea that they get called for not doing the right thing and held accountable by the president should be a strong message," he said.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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