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President Obama Unveils Cybersecurity National Action Plan and Issues Two New Executive Orders Directed at Cybersecurity and Privacy Concerns

President Obama unveiled on February 9, 2015 his Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP), a combination of near-term actions and long-term strategy to “enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections, protect privacy, maintain public safety as well as economic and national security, and empower Americans to take better control of their digital security.”  In conjunction with this unveiling, President Obama signed two Executive Orders directed at improving cybersecurity in both the private and public sectors by establishing groups of informed stakeholders to issue federal recommendations for cybersecurity and privacy protections.

The first Executive Order established the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity to promote and improve cybersecurity awareness and protections throughout the private sector and at all levels of government.  The Commission will be comprised of 12 experts appointed by the President with knowledge of cybersecurity, the digital economy, and related areas.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, and both the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate are invited to recommend one individual for membership on the Commission.  Federally registered lobbyists and current federal government employees are prohibited from  serving on the Commission

At a minimum, the Commission is charged with developing recommendations that address the following:

  1. increased protections for systems and data, including how to advance identity management, authentication, and cybersecurity of online identities;

  2. ensuring that cybersecurity is a core element of the technologies associated with the Internet of Things and cloud computing;

  3. appropriate investments in research and development initiatives that can enhance cybersecurity;

  4. increasing the quality, quantity, and level of expertise of the federal government cybersecurity workforce, including through education and training;

  5. improving broad-based education of commonsense cybersecurity practices for the general public; and

  6. any other issues that the President, through the Secretary of Commerce, requests the Commission to consider.

President Obama’s second Executive Order establishes a Federal Privacy Council – an interagency support structure tasked with ensuring privacy in agencies that collect, maintain and use citizens’ information and data.  Pursuant to the Order, the head of each agency is required to designate or re-designate a Senior Agency Official for Privacy with the experience and skills necessary to manage an agency-wide privacy program.  In addition, to the extent permitted by law and consistent with ongoing activities, , the head of each agency is required to work with the Council.

The Chair of the Council will be the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Chair may designate a Vice Chair, establish working groups, and assign responsibilities for operations of the Council as he or she deems necessary.  In addition to the Chair, the Council will include the Senior Agency Officials for Privacy of twenty-four Executive agencies across the federal government.  The Council is tasked with:

  1. developing and recommending new government-wide privacy recommendations to the OMB;

  2. coordinating and sharing ideas, best practices and approaches for protecting privacy and implementing appropriate privacy safeguards;

  3. assessing and recommending how best to address the hiring, training and professional development needs of the federal government with respect to privacy matters; and

  4. performing other privacy-related functions as designated by the chair of the Council.

In addition to the Commission and the Council, the CNAP intends to: propose a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Fund to enable the retirement, replacement, and modernization of legacy IT throughout the government; create the position of the Federal Chief Information Security Officer to drive and implement IT changes government-wide; launch a National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign to, among other things, encourage citizens to secure their online accounts through multi-factor identification; and invest over $19 billion for cybersecurity in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

© 2021 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 46

About this Author

Susan B. Cassidy, Government Contracts Attorney, Covington Burling, Law Firm

Susan Cassidy advises clients on the complex rules and regulations imposed on government contractors, with a special emphasis on the defense and intelligence sectors. She combines a sophisticated knowledge of the FAR and DFARS with the practical insight gained from senior in-house positions at both dedicated defense and commercial item contractors.

Ms. Cassidy conducts internal investigations for clients on wide array of government contracts and national security compliance issues. She regularly advises on FAR mandatory disclosure obligations and represents...

Catlin Meade, Cybersecurity lawyer, Covington

Catlin Meade advises clients across a broad range of cybersecurity and government contracts matters, including government and internal investigations, compliance with cybersecurity and data breach regulations, and SAFETY Act applications.

Representative Matters

  • Counsel to multiple companies in responding to data and cybersecurity incidents.
  • Advised a leading defense contractor on a multi-million-dollar prime-subcontractor dispute in connection with a NATO contract.
  • Key member of team that successfully represented a large government...