Obama's cybersecurity plan prompts praise and some questions

President's five-point program calls for creation of cyber czar

President Barack Obama’s announcement today that he soon will name a cyber czar to lead a five-point program aimed at protecting the security of computer networks has provoked early praise and some questions from the contracting and business community.

The president said increased cyber security is long overdue. “Cyber space is real, and so is the risk that comes with it,” he said.

“Cyber threats are real, growing, and causing significant challenges for businesses,” said Ann Beauchesne, vice president of national security and emergency preparedness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

“President Obama promised to make cyber security a top priority during the campaign. The chamber welcomes the administration’s efforts to turn a campaign promise into action,” she said.

The chamber called the White House’s release of the 60-day cyberspace policy review “a way forward to build a secure, reliable, and resilient communications and information infrastructure.”

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“The timing is perfect. There is a lot of enthusiasm for it,” said Zal Azmi, senior vice president for strategic law enforcement and national security programs at CACI International Inc. and formerly chief information officer for the FBI.

Referring to the five-point plan, Azmi said, “It’s a very comprehensive plan. It lays out a very good strategy.” In addition, it answers some concerns from the community: collaboration, transparency, working with the private and public sectors, investments in research and development, and national awareness, he added.

But the cyber office is going to need staffing, leadership and of course funding, which is critical to its operations and success, Azmi said. “So there is some work to be done once the cyber directorate is established and staffed.”

“It’s not a trivial task. It’s a complicated task,” he said. “The stars are all aligned to make this happen,” Azmi added.

Sid Fuchs, president and chief executive officer of OAO Technology Solutions Inc., said in an email that he wondered how Obama will define cyber? “Will it include space-based communications? Ground-based networks? Internet? Voice? Data? [And] will it include offensive and counter offensive policies and initiatives?”

He added that if the czar’s role is mainly policy and coordination, will that person also have budget and budget/procurement authority? “If they don’t,” he warned, “they will be ineffective.”

Cyberspace security constitutes the most critical military and economic imperative of this century, said Ronald Sugar, chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp.,

“We applaud President Obama for his leadership on this vitally important issue. And we commend his team for laying out a robust and common sense plan and establishing a Cybersecurity Coordinator to engage this nation's experts to protect this strategic asset,” he said in a statement.

“President Obama and his administration have taken an important first step toward creating a safe cyber environment by releasing the 60-day Cyberspace Policy Review,” said Edward Mueller, chairman and CEO of Qwest Communications Inc.

“We have worked actively with the government and industry on issues associated with protecting our networks and the information that flows through them. This collaborative approach will continue to be necessary to ensure that the administration’s goals of leadership, education, shared responsibility, effective response, and continued innovation in the cyber security arena are meaningful and actionable,” Mueller said.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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