Cyber Strategies for a World at War


President Obama and the Cyber Threat – The Transition

A CSWW Analysis

On the historic day of the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, the world witnessed levels of security and caution never-before displayed for a presidential inauguration, and for good reason: The threats against the United States, and the threats against its new president, are very real, and very dangerous.

Just by watching the inauguration and witnessing with our own eyes the unprecedented levels of security and force that was on hand and ready for action, we understand that President Obama understands that the physical, kinetic threats to the United States are real. But what about the non-kinetic threats, the hidden and secret threats–the cyber threat? Does the United States’ new president understand that the cyber threat is just as real and just as dangerous?

The Transition

In our first installment of this series, we discussed the position that candidate Obama took regarding the cyber threat to the United States and learned that he would “make cyber security the top priority that it should be in the 21st century.” Only time will tell if in fact he will make cyber security a top priority, but we can attempt to determine if his position has evolved since his transition from candidate to President-elect Obama. Let’s take a look at what was posted on his transition website,

Protect Our Information Networks

Barack Obama and Joe Biden — working with private industry, the research community and our citizens — will lead an effort to build a trustworthy and accountable cyber infrastructure that is resilient, protects America’s competitive advantage, and advances our national and homeland security. They will:

Strengthen Federal Leadership on Cyber Security: Declare the cyber infrastructure a strategic asset and establish the position of national cyber advisor who will report directly to the president and will be responsible for coordinating federal agency efforts and development of national cyber policy.

Initiate a Safe Computing R&D Effort and Harden our Nation’s Cyber Infrastructure: Support an initiative to develop next-generation secure computers and networking for national security applications. Work with industry and academia to develop and deploy a new generation of secure hardware and software for our critical cyber infrastructure.

Protect the IT Infrastructure That Keeps America’s Economy Safe: Work with the private sector to establish tough new standards for cyber security and physical resilience.

Prevent Corporate Cyber-Espionage: Work with industry to develop the systems necessary to protect our nation’s trade secrets and our research and development. Innovations in software, engineering, pharmaceuticals and other fields are being stolen online from U.S. businesses at an alarming rate.

Develop a Cyber Crime Strategy to Minimize the Opportunities for Criminal Profit: Shut down the mechanisms used to transmit criminal profits by shutting down untraceable Internet payment schemes. Initiate a grant and training program to provide federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies the tools they need to detect and prosecute cyber crime.

Mandate Standards for Securing Personal Data and Require Companies to Disclose Personal Information Data Breaches: Partner with industry and our citizens to secure personal data stored on government and private systems. Institute a common standard for securing such data across industries and protect the rights of individuals in the information age.

The first thing that one may notice is that there is no longer a strong statement about making the cyber threat the 21st century priority it should be. Perhaps one can draw from his transition bullet points that much thought and discussion has taken and is taking place regarding the threat and that it is understood to be a national priority; but by not reminding the nation that the cyber threat is a priority, there is a risk that, at a minimum, we may come to regard the cyber threat as less of a threat than it really is, or at most, we may not even realize there is any threat at all. We look to our president to not only understand the challenges facing the country and to set the national priorities to meet them, but to also ensure that we, his constituents, also understand what the challenges and priorities are so that we are prepared to make the sacrifices that will be required to accomplish the priorities and overcome the challenges.

One may also notice that during his transition President Obama more fully developed his position toward working more collaboratively with the private industry and law enforcement agencies, included points on the challenges of Cyber Crime, and introduced a desire to appoint a Cyber Advisor. All good points, but still only points. More work is yet to be done in the critical process of transforming from a broad cyber security campaign position and transitional cyber security talking points to a comprehensive national cyber security strategy.

Obviously, campaigning is not governing; nor is transitioning to govern governing. Consequently, from President Obama’s campaign and his transition to the presidency we will learn no more than what we can glean from his speeches and position papers. While what he has said and written certainly are important–they helped to get him elected at least–they are no where nearly as important as the governing actions that he is just now beginning to take. It is now, after finally taking his historic oath of office (two times and counting), and starting to receive his daily Presidential Briefs, that he will truly begin governing and making the tough decisions regarding the magnitude of the intense threats and challenges that will continuously confront him. From this point forward will we begin to learn whether President Obama will fulfill his campaign promise to make the cyber threat the priority it should be by taking the actions that need to be taken.


Next up: The First One Hundred Days

CSWW encourages your comments, feedback, and criticism throughout this series.


Filed under: Analysis, History, Politics, War, , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. united states 44th precedent obama threats against
    very real, and very dangerous.all security force start the action. any country war start.



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