NIST seen as epicenter for cybersecurity

By Max Cacas
Federal News Radio

If a Maryland lawmaker has her way, a federal agency that already leads the battle for cybersecurity will soon have an enhanced role, and additional funding, in pursuit of its mission.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has several reasons to be interested in cybersecurity.

For one thing, she is the chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies and as such, helps approve spending bills for the Commerce Department and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Mikulski also takes pride in pointing out that NIST is headquartered in prime Maryland territory — a large, sprawling campus in Germantown, Md., just west of I-270 in the Montgomery County Tech Corridor.

Delivering a keynote address to the Commerce Department’s Symposium on Cybersecurity in the Commercial Space yesterday, Mikulski detailed plans to create a “National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence,” to be headquartered at NIST. She included language and funding for the idea in the recently approved Commerce Department appropriations bill.

Mikulski says the goal is to boost NIST’s role in setting the technical standards for the equipment that will protect all of the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

“This new technology needs to be built to standards…and the standards should be and must be a United States standard, not a China standard. I believe that the country that creates the standards first, will create the products and the jobs first,” she says.

Mikulski says that just as the National Security Agency protects the military’s .mil networks, the government’s .gov and the private sector’s .com networks need a similar agency looking after its security.

“What I have created in the Appropriations Committee,” she told symposium attendees, “is a National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence at NIST. I have funded this at $10 million. What will it do? It’s going to create a hub of innovation and development. A gateway for the private sector to build partnerships to produce mutually beneficial research, cyber technology tools, and other important things.”

Mikulski’s proposal to boost NIST’s cybersecurity profile has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of the Commerce Department appropriations bill. It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Mikulski adds that the NIST National Cybersecurity Center for Excellence would serve as a cybersecurity technology transfer center for academia and industry; will help fund, what she calls, “merit-based research” into cybersecurity; and also promote leap-ahead next-generation cybersecurity technology.

Vint Cerf, a vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google says “I see this not as a unique thing, but as an expansion of what NIST is already doing. They’ve been very engaged with cybersecurity for quite some time, and for its application to the smart grid program, so I think the Senator’s idea is to increase the level of activity there.”

Jim Lewis, director and senior fellow with the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says, “Cybersecurity has a lot of moving parts, so when you say NIST has a role, we want to ask what NIST should be doing. But within those many moving parts, standards are crucial, and partnership with private industry in developing standards, and working internationally to get those standards adopted across the world, NIST has a crucial role, so if they can focus on the things they are good at, I think this is a great idea.”

(Copyright 2010 by All Rights Reserved.)


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