Gilmore Commission raps cybersecurity policy

Gilmore Commission raps cybersecurity policy

The Gilmore Commission has strongly criticized the administration's cybersecurity policy and called for a merger of cyber- and physical security policy work in the White House.

The commission's fourth report, released in full today, repeated the recommendation of its third report a year ago: to establish an independent commission on cybersecurity. 'We have concluded that the physical and cyber elements of [critical infrastructure protection] are so intertwined that it makes no sense to address them separately,' according to the fourth report.

'National coordination of cybersecurity policy has not improved,' the report said. 'The President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board has not had a large effect on policy-making, apparently relying, instead, on the White House Office of Cyberspace Security' [].

The Gilmore Commission said the board and other organizations that develop cyberspace policy do not include state, local and private sector representatives, as it recommended. The commission criticized the board's continuing reliance on public-private partnerships as a weak method of securing cyberspace. As a result, the board's Draft Strategy on Securing Cyberspace 'poses what we regard as voluntary, tactical responses to an inherently strategic problem of national importance.' The board called the draft strategy a 'small step indeed.'

Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore leads the commission, which is known as the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction. Congress established the commission in 1998. This year, in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2002, Congress extended the commission's work until 2004. So far, according to the commission, 66 of the 79 substantive recommendations it has made have been partly or wholly adopted.

The commission added that the government's reliance on persuasion to promote cybersecurity has perpetuated 'significant market disincentives to the adoption of cybersecurity measures ' that directly contribute to national needs,' such as national security, health and safety.

The commission said the 'federal government does not hold its leaders and managers responsible for cybersecurity. There are essentially little or no consequences for federal government agencies or officials who do not take prudent steps to improve cybersecurity.'

The commission cited research conducted for it by the Rand Institute, an educational group based in Irvine, Calif., that predicted that unless private-sector systems and security standards were upgraded, cybersecurity would deteriorate. 'Key reforms cannot be accomplished without fundamental changes in the IT market that significantly increase the understanding of the importance of cybersecurity.'

Such changes include:

  • mandating levels of security by law or regulation

  • modifying insurance practices to reward systems security

  • spurring the market for secure systems via federal procurement policy

  • changing liability law so companies would have to bear more of the burden of insecure systems.

  • In addition to recommending that the White House merge its physical and cybersecurity activities, the commission said the president should mandate a National Intelligence Estimate on the threats to the nation's critical infrastructure.

    The commission also called for the Homeland Security Department to adopt modeling and analytic capabilities and metrics used by the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center at the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratory to enhance critical infrastructure security.


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