Cybersecurity

White House to target 'weakest links' in federal networks

Rob Joyce NSA/WH 

White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce is going after weak links on federal networks.

Rob Joyce, the White House point man on cybersecurity, said the recent executive order on cybersecurity signed by President Donald Trump means that federal networks are going to be treated with new relevance and that government is going to take a harder look at eliminating weak links in the chain.

"We operate those networks. In some places, they're antiquated, they're indefensible," Joyce told a May 18 meeting of the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

Joyce, who was a top National Security Agency official before joining the Trump administration, said the executive order gives officials a platform for action and innovation. He is looking to accelerate the move to the cloud and "take individual departments and agencies and bring them under the umbrellas of larger managed service providers who can do this at scale."

Joyce suggested the Office of Reclamation as an example, noting that it has a small IT budget but is charged with protecting important data about the nation’s water supply.

"They are not going to have the MIT, Carnegie Mellon or Stanford recruits" to their IT department, he said, because of competition from the private sector and more sought-after cybersecurity jobs in government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security or the NSA.

"If we allow individual departments and agencies to fend for themselves, we will often get the lowest common denominator as our weakest link in what is an interlinked federal network," Joyce said.

He added that he was looking to eliminate the use of out-of-support commercial technology in the federal enterprise, calling Windows XP an example of an operating system "that should no longer be in our inventory." He cited the continued reliance on obsolete technology as a decision, rather than inertia.

"Whether that decision is driven by budget or driven by inattention, it's something we've got to identify and drive out," Joyce said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Wed, May 24, 2017 Mike Moxcey

Consolidation is always touted as a way to save money. It sounds good. Get experts to build your stuff. Problem is, if consolidation really worked, we'd only need one Department of Government. Here's an issue: DHS is composed of 22 Agencies which report to 88 different congressional committees and subcommittees. The DHS consolidation committee will have to answer a series of similar questions 88 different times.

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