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INSA Chairwoman: Partnership is the Way Forward

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INSA Chairwoman: Partnership is the Way Forward - top government contractors - best government contracting eventIn order to move froward with securing the nation’s networks, the government and private sectors must work together, Frances Townsend, Chairwoman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) board, told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee during a hearing June 15.

During a hearing to discuss the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, recently proposed by Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins and Tom Carper, Townsend said that the majority of cyber talent lies in the private sector, making partnerships between the government and private sector absolutely critical to securing the nation’s infrastructure.

“Collective national cybersecurity can only be effectively addressed through a partnership approach between government and private industry,” she said. “Industry is where most of the expertise in the fields of IT and cybersecurity reside … partnership is the only way forward.”

The bill,  if passed, would create a new Center to coordinate the nation’s cyber effort. Townsend, on behalf of INSA, praised the creation of such a center and its efforts to include the private sector through an advisory council.

“This bill not only establishes a clearly responsible Center for the problem, but requires that a private sector advisory council be organized to advise the Center on their actions’ effects on industry,” she said.

Additionally, Townsend discussed the need to preserve the innovative atmosphere in cyber. The government should be careful when developing standards to keep innovation and creativity from being stifled.

“Prescriptive or directive security standards, or one-size fits all approaches will limit innovation and erode industry support and participation if industry managers feel security mandates have made their business less competitive,” Townsend said. “We applaud the measured approach of this bill in allowing industry members to propose their own security solutions for approval by the regulatory body.”

“This not only creates a true give-and-take security partnership, but also allows for innovation and growth,” she added.

Another key component of the legislation is establishing plans for information sharing. In a cyber environment, particularly in parternship with the government, information is often over-classified or poorly disseminated.

“Critical to a strong public-private partnership is the creation of a shared awareness of the network environment,” Townsend said. “Information sharing is absolutely crucial.”

The bill, if passed, would require plans to be put in place for the sharing of information between public and private sector actors. Townsend also called for the development of best practices and standards in cooperation between the private and public sectors.

“Government must develop security standards and systems that deal with known threats and have the capacity to adapt to the rapidly changing cyber environment, and it must do so in concert with industry partners,” she said. [The new center] should embrace a true partnership approach, soliciting comments from industry on draft proposals, consulting closely with owners and operators and being open to revision of their rules in light of industry input.”

One method of improving security proposed by INSA is private sector self-regulation.

“Self-regulation is not an unprecedented activity in the U.S. private sector,” Townsend said. “There are multiple examples of where the private sector has self-organized to attain a goal … Self-regulation in cyberspace can be achieved and self-imposed based on a strong value proposition and value-based incentives.”

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