Cyber EO successes and struggles

Deadlines for the first two sets of deliverables under Obama's cybersecurity executive order have come and gone, meaning agencies are now ready to ask: Can the government actually get this done?

image of obama on phone

It has been less than six months since President Obama's cybersecurity executive order. (File photo)

It has been less than six months since President Obama issued an executive order targeting cybersecurity in U.S. critical infrastructure, a mandate that has pushed federal agencies and privately owned utilities into security overdrive. The first and second sets of deliverables, now in after respective June and July deadlines, mean agencies are now at the point to reasonably ask: Can the government actually get this done?

The cyber EO and its push to secure critical infrastructure – power companies, water utilities and the like – demand an unusual level of cooperation between the government and industry. The first deliverables, due 120 days after the EO's release, center on information-sharing, figuring out incentives and expanding existing critical infrastructure protections. The 150-day deliverables take matters a step further by zeroing in on the parts of critical infrastructure most vulnerable to catastrophic incidents, and evaluating and improving the truly crucial public-private partnerships.

Download

On July 18, agency officials testified at a Congressional hearing on their work to meet the requirements laid out in the cybersecurity executive order. Click here to watch the hearing webcast.

>

With the second set of deliverables submitted on July 12, officials say the intense work in both sectors has highlighted all the pieces that are coming together – and the parts of the puzzle that still need more work. At the crux of it all is a tension between missions, requirements and approaches.

"Looking at [how] over the last 10 years we've been building this partnership – what's worked, what hasn't -- overall we've found that the structure has worked well," said Jeanette Manfra, deputy director of the Homeland Security Department's cyber EO integrated task force. "We need to do a better job in the areas of flexibility; you can't treat all the sectors the same, or even a sector itself as all the same. So it's flexibility, and it's also the ability to balance the empowerment and accountability pieces that need to be in there."

In addition to public-private partnerships and effective information-sharing between them, key areas of focus include the establishment of incentives for participation, the integration of cybersecurity into government acquisition processes and the development of overarching framework. Officials speaking July 17 on a panel at Wiley Rein in Washington, including Manfra, said the progress is real but much work remains -- especially as the deadline approaches for the next sets of deliverables, due in October and February.

"What we're talking about now is preliminary framework; this is what's due in October," said Adam Sedgewick, senior IT policy adviser at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "But we also expect that this engagement will be ongoing, and questions about the long-term governance of this framework are going to be important."

The framework centers on certain central themes: flexibility for future solutions; collaboration with industry; and protections for intellectual property and privacy and civil liberties. The framework also requires that the government does not introduce new standards when existing ones meet the objectives, and it needs to be compatible with existing regulations, Sedgewick added.

Among the existing regulations are those related to acquisition, an already-complex area into which officials now must incorporate cybersecurity. It is an issue throughout agencies, regardless of mission, and one in which NIST analyses have identified specific shortfalls. The EO and framework are targeting these acquisition gaps, said Emile Monette, senior action officer for cybersecurity policy at the General Services Administration.

"If you've been tracking the framework development, you get that [cyber] is a dependency that cuts across all of the sectors. This is increased accountability – it's providing some structure and discipline and hard-stop process pieces in the acquisition system that requires a cybersecurity check," Monette said. "You don't see many contracting officers or even corporate procurement people signing contracts without a legal sufficiency review...and we analogize that to cybersecurity and information-security review and insert it in the acquisition system."

According to Manfra, acquisition is not the only matter where business as usual is hamstringing efforts. Classification of information and cumbersome clearance processes to access it for critical decision-making are areas also in need of overhaul. DHS has been working on those issues in coordination with the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Manfra noted.

"How it’s affected the partnerships is similar to other process breakdowns in that it's often perceived as a trust problem or a lack of competence problem...it’s emblematic of trying to get our arms around the different things that we need to do that are very unique in government," she said. "At the same time we're saying, 'this is a partnership,' we have these things hampering us."

The ongoing processes in implementing the cyber EO have highlighted these bumps in the road, but officials remained optimistic. The range of organizations, opinions and needs that now have a seat at the table magnify the intricacy of the mission at hand – a spotlight that is driving progress, according to those involved in the discussions.

"Everyone is coming to the table recognizing that...if we're going to be a true public-private partnership we have to both appreciate the complexity of it and be OK with that complexity," Manfra said. "We have to work together and be open in a way that the government is not always used to. This is a big cultural change but...if we don’t build that trust and build those relationships it's not going to work."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.