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White House aims to harden agency networks

President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on cybersecurity means the White House will take a hard look at eliminating weak links in federal networks.

"We operate those networks. In some places, they're antiquated, they're indefensible," Rob Joyce, the White House point man on cybersecurity, said.

The executive order gives officials a platform for action and innovation, Joyce told a May 18 meeting of the President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. He is looking to accelerate the move to the cloud and "take individual departments and agencies and bring them under the umbrellas of larger managed service providers who can do this at scale."

The Office of Reclamation, for example, has a small IT budget but is charged with protecting important data about the nation’s water supply, Joyce said.

"They are not going to have the MIT, Carnegie Mellon or Stanford"  graduates applying to their IT department, he said, because of competition from the private sector and more sought-after cybersecurity jobs in government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security or the National Security Agency.

"If we allow individual departments and agencies to fend for themselves, we will often get the lowest common denominator as our weakest link in what is an interlinked federal network," Joyce said.

He added that he was looking to eliminate the use of out-of-support commercial technology in the federal enterprise, calling Windows XP an example of an operating system "that should no longer be in our inventory." He cited the continued reliance on obsolete technology as a decision, rather than inertia.

"Whether that decision is driven by budget or driven by inattention, it's something we've got to identify and drive out," Joyce said.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sister site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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