The White House released the first version of its multiyear implementation plan for the National Cybersecurity Strategy on Thursday, setting into motion a significant overhaul of how the federal government will regulate digital security issues.
The implementation plan has been eagerly anticipated by both policymakers and industry as it lays out how the Biden administration plans to make its strategy, which has been largely lauded by experts and officials, into a reality.
The document has more than 65 initiatives to carry out the “five pillars” of the cyber strategy and largely follows the same format. While the strategy is a one-time document, however, implementation plan to carry out that strategy is expected to evolve over time.
“The implementation plan is a living document. The National Cybersecurity strategy is meant to be enduring and is crafted to guide policy across the decisive decade in which we find ourselves,” said Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden at a press briefing on Wednesday. “Implementation Plan, on the other hand, will evolve whether in response to changing threat landscapes, or as initiatives are completed and we get follow on actions.”
The plan released Thursday will be updated next year to 2.0 and other aspects of the plan will be updated as they are completed or new cyberthreats require some alterations.
Walden noted there are several aspects of the plan that are either already completed or are underway such as working to codify the Cyber Safety Review Board, the Pentagon’s updated unclassified cyber implementation plan, and the nearing completion of the anticipated national cyber workforce and education strategy.
“While it does not intend to capture all cybersecurity activities being carried out by agencies, it describes more than 65 high-impact initiatives requiring executive visibility and interagency coordination that the Federal government will carry out to achieve the Strategy’s objectives,” the document states.
Some initiatives of the plan include the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency updating the National Cyber Incident Response Plan, which the agency announced in January and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of fiscal year 2025.
“The update will also include clear guidance to external partners on the roles and capabilities of federal agencies in incident response and recovery,” Walden said.
Another initiative around cyber mandates for critical infrastructure will have the National Security Council, sector risk management agencies and regulators, and the ONCD analyze cyber risk in sectors and outline how to either use existing authorities to mandate better defenses or develop proposals to close any gaps in authorities.
Some of the plan’s initiatives are expected to be accomplished this year. For instance, the Office of Management and Budget will work with the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to propose Federal Acquisition Regulations changes for Internet of Things devices, the IoT labeling program, CISA’s work on building domestic and international support for a coordinated vulnerability disclosure, and a State Department effort to develop an international engagement plan to counter ransomware crime.
The plan comes just as the federal government is in the midst of another widespread hacking incident impacting federal agencies. The Chinese-linked operation gained access to the emails of roughly two dozen organization worldwide including multiple U.S. federal entities.
Asked how the plan will help in ongoing situations like the Chinese campaign, Walden said that “the strategy has two pivotal pieces to it: one is to make sure that we are more defensible and that we are more resilient.”
“So what does that mean? That we know cyberattacks are going to happen but that the downtime is going to be quick, and that the impact won’t be catastrophic,” Walden said. “So we need to figure out what investments we need to make.”