Will the next U.S. president lead on cybersecurity?

New independent commission plans by the end of 2008 to lay out a "blueprint" aimed at helping the 44th president navigate cybercrises.

WASHINGTON--The presidential elections may be more than a year off, but a newly unveiled group is already plotting how to ensure No. 44 has a fresh "blueprint" for managing cybercrises.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, said on Tuesday that it's forming an independent, nonpartisan Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency, composed of more than 30 people who are considered experts in the field.

Its goal by the end of 2008 is to "come up with a set of recommendations for the next administration, whether Democratic or Republican," James Lewis, a senior fellow at CSIS, said at a morning press conference here on Capitol Hill.

It's not as though strategic cybersecurity plans don't already exist. More than four years ago, President Bush signed off on a policy statement known as the "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace."

But Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who currently head a House of Representatives cybersecurity subcommittee, said they believe the new group is necessary because they've seen firsthand that the government still isn't paying enough attention to cybersecurity. They said they feared that future cyberintrusions could do everything from disrupting the electrical grid to throwing off bank balance sheets.

"This is really about trying to manage, reduce and eliminate possible risks and vulnerabilities that are out there," Langevin said.

Langevin and McCaul will be co-chairing the commission, along with Adm. Bobby Inman, former director of the National Security Agency and now a professor at the University of Texas, and Scott Charney, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Trustworthy Computing.

The commission will comprise 32 other members, including several former high-level officials from agencies like the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Homeland Security.

McCaul said he envisioned the commission's work product being as important as the recommendations issued by the 9/11 Commission, which probed the attacks and the government's response.

"This is not a political exercise," McCaul said. "This issue is far too important for partisan agendas."

But unlike the 9/11 Commission, this group won't be aggressively subpoenaing documents and assessing what has happened in the past on the cyberfront. Rather, it plans to take a look at current and future threats, scrutinize existing government policies toward cybersecurity, and chart a path for information security for both the government and private companies.

The group plans to hold four "plenary sessions" next year, but it wasn't immediately clear whether those sessions would be open to the public, because classified material may be involved.

 

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