TR Daily NSTAC Recommends ‘Holistic’ U.S. Strategy for NS/EP ICT Leadership
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

NSTAC Recommends ‘Holistic’ U.S. Strategy for NS/EP ICT Leadership

The president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) today voted to send a letter to President Trump with “preliminary” recommendations on ways that the government can manage near-term risks, support innovation, and enhance vendor diversity for capabilities that are critical for national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP).

David DeWalt, a member of the NSTAC and chair of the subcommittee that prepared the letter, said that the group will continue its study of the issues that President Trump tasked the NSTAC with last August regarding critical technology capabilities for NS/EP functions, and that phase two of its work will involve developing a potential set of solutions for the effects of malicious activities. Phase two of the study will look at the origins of “NS/EP ICT dependencies, market limitations, and supply chain risks,” using 5G technologies as a case study. NSTAC will then base recommendations for government policies and actions on the phase two study findings.

The letter adopted today reflects on the approach to be taken in phase two of the study, including being guided by the NSTAC’s cybersecurity “moonshot” report to the president last fall. One of the pillars of the moonshot initiative includes targeting actions to maintain U.S. innovation and leadership in existing and future ICT areas.

The forthcoming NSTAC report to the president on advancing resiliency and fostering innovation in the ICT ecosystem will highlight three technologies: 5G networks, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence.

Phase one of the study, as reflected in letter adopted by the NSTAC today on a unanimous voice vote, has led to the “core recommendation” that the U.S. must have a “holistic national strategy” for information and communications technology (ICT), upon which NS/EP relies, Mr. DeWalt said, quoting at length from the letter.

The strategy should enhance coordination between the government and industry, including “manufacturers located in allied nations,” so that the U.S. and its allies can continue to lead the way on NS/EP technologies, the letter says.

However, Mr. DeWalt emphasized that the letter does not call for the strategy to be a way for the U.S. government to exert control over private businesses, but rather that the strategy should be for the U.S. government to “leverage [its] authorities and competencies to enable industry partners to play a global leadership role.” Those authorities and competences include the need to raise the “visibility of the risks created by reliance upon an untrusted supply chain, set national strategic priorities and allocate federal resources, convene stakeholders, and incent collaborative action,” according to the letter.

The strategy should address the need for “global standards in supply chain resiliency and security,” Mr. DeWalt continued. The U.S. needs to have “a process to develop a clear definition of trust” for trusted or untrusted products and services, he said.

A second recommendation is based on “the economic roots of the trustworthiness problem,” that is, that some of the equipment seen as raising trust issues appeals to network operators because it is inexpensive, he said. He added, that “China does not differentiate between national security and economic success.”

Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), also spoke at the NSTAC meeting. He said that CISA is working, since coming out of the partial government shutdown in January, on “understanding organizationally where we are and where we are going on issues like supply chain risk management and ultimately 5G cybersecurity.”

He said CISA has “two no-fail mission priorities right now”: federal government networks and election integrity. He noted that “just last weekend there was an election in Ukraine” and that “there’ll be other elections going forward” in other countries ahead of the U.S. election in 2020. By observing these other elections, CISA will be “trying to get inside the adversary’s thinking.”

NSTAC Chair Renee James, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Amere Computing, said before adjourning the meeting that NSTAC is planning a joint meeting in early June with DHS’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

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