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Trump’s counterterror pick signals potential boon for cyber contractors

December 27, 2016 (Photo Credit: Capt. Kyle Key, U.S. Army)
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to advise him on homeland security and counterterrorism issues may have telegraphed with a single quote how the scales of a public-private partnership on cybersecurity will tip under the new administration.

And the workload for cybersecurity contractors could get a lot heavier.

Trump tapped former deputy national security adviser Thomas Bossert on Dec. 27 to serve as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Bossert — who worked on infrastructure protection and counterterrorism policy in the George W. Bush administration — said in a statement that he would craft a cybersecurity policy built on a bedrock of open-market innovation.

"We must work toward cyber doctrine that reflects the wisdom of free markets, private competition and the important but limited role of government in establishing and enforcing the rule of law, honoring the rights of personal property, the benefits of free and fair trade and the fundamental principles of liberty,” he said.

“The internet is a U.S. invention, it should reflect these U.S. values as it continues to transform the future for all nations and all generations."

Cybersecurity has been a hot topic in national security policy in the wake of the Office of Personnel Management and Democratic National Committee hacks.

The Obama administration released its Cybersecurity National Action Plan in February with a litany of initiatives to both boost cyber talent in the federal government and partner with the private sector to build more secure and consistent networks through practices like threat-sharing and standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The question since the November election has been how much of that policy would Trump retain?

On the campaign trail, Trump said his administration would form a team of cybersecurity experts from both public and private sectors to assess the federal government’s cyber posture, but the role those forces would play in implementing any recommendation remains to be seen.

Bossert’s selection as the administration counterterrorism adviser was hailed by Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a senior member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Armed Services and co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, albeit with a nod toward policy cooperation.

“He has been a strong advocate for public-private partnerships in cybersecurity and for an increased role for the White House in setting federal cybersecurity policy,” Langevin said in a statement about Bossert. 

“I hope he will continue to chart this centrist, bipartisan course in his new role. I also hope that he will impress upon the president-elect the vital national security concerns tied to Russian information warfare activities and I encourage him to work closely with Congress in attempting to build our resilience and our defenses to forestall such operations in the future.”   

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