United States: Obama Commission On Enhancing National Cybersecurity Provides Recommendations To Next Administration

In April 2016, President Obama appointed the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity (the "Commission") to assess the state of our cybersecurity and develop actionable recommendations for securing the digital economy as it advances, in part to assist the next administration. Led by his former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and comprised of experts from outside government aided by staff from several federal agencies to help gather and analyze information, the Commission issued its 90-page Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy on December 1 (the "Report"), presenting numerous recommendations and action items, some of them interesting and provocative.1

A significant portion of the analysis and some of the recommendations should be of interest to the incoming Trump team as it moves forward with its own plans to have a Cyber Review Team that includes government and private sector representation and will be led by the Department of Defense (DoD), to conduct a far-ranging cybersecurity review of U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure and other important areas; and to create joint task forces throughout the U.S. to coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts against cybercrime.

The Report by the Numbers

  • The Commission's 12 members included individuals recommended by leaders of both parties in the House and Senate and others selected by the President. These included, in addition to Chairman Tom Donilon, the former National Security Advisor to President Obama, the Commission's Vice Chair, Samuel Palmisano, the former Chairman and CEO of IBM, and a host of distinguished leaders and experts from academia and industry, including several CEOs, some of whom had previously held critical government roles.
  • In developing the Report, the Commission obtained a wide range of input, including testimony from six hearings it held across the country and from numerous written comments received in response to its public solicitations.
  • The Report identifies 10 foundational principles, nine broad findings, six major imperatives, 16 recommendations and a total of 53 action items associated with those recommendations.
  • Each action item includes guidance regarding when the Commission believes work on it should commence. All were designated for the short or medium term, ranging from the first 100 days to five years, depending on whether action is required by both Congress and the Administration, or extensive consultation with other stakeholders is required, or if more information is needed.
  • The nine broad findings state that many organizations still fail to do even basic cybersecurity. Companies are under pressure to move innovations to market quickly, even at the expense of cybersecurity; flexible and mobile working environments are necessary but increase risk and make the "classic concept of the security perimeter...largely obsolete"; technological complexity creates vulnerabilities and sophisticated attackers can gain access at a fraction of the cost of defense; risks from increased connectivity are sometimes associated with the Internet of Things ("IoT"); interdependencies, decentralization and supply chain risks abound; government is vexed by large legacy technology systems and challenges in making investments in and procuring needed talent and systems; and concern is increasing and trust eroding in everything from the integrity of data, elections, and organizations that produce products and services.

Action Items

The array of action items suggested by the Commission include ideas that are designed to provide a way forward to improve cybersecurity for businesses, government and consumers. Some of the action items will be appealing to the business community, others may be neutral, and still others may be regarded with skepticism or concern.

Here are some examples of the action items:

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should work to address industry's concern about increased exposure to legal actions if it engages with government proactively and collaboratively on a coordinated joint defense plan and risk management practices, by working with industry to identify needed changes in statutes, regulations or policies such as public disclosure laws like FOIA, discovery in civil litigation, use in regulatory enforcement actions or rulemaking, implications for attorney-client privilege, or similar concerns. Action Item 1.2.3
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should build on its Cybersecurity Framework and establish a Cybersecurity Framework Metrics Working Group (CFMWG) to develop industry-led, consensus-based metrics that industry can use to voluntarily assess relative corporate risk, help government and insurers to understand insurance coverage needs and standardize premiums, and implement a nationwide voluntary incident reporting program for identifying cyber gaps. Action Item 1.4.1
  • Federal regulators should harmonize existing and future regulation with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to address strong private sector concerns that regulators are inconsistently using and applying the Framework; and are creating redundancy, inconsistency, higher compliance costs for businesses, and impediments to innovation. In addition, the Report calls for the creation of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) procedures to reduce the likelihood of these federal problems and also calls for state and local regulatory agencies to address overlapping and potentially inconsistent state regulation. Action Item 1.4.3
  • The government should create additional incentives to companies that implement cyber risk management principles and demonstrate collaborative engagement, such as liability protections, including certain safe harbors for companies in regulated sectors. Additional incentives might include tax and government procurement incentives, prioritized cyber technical assistance, regulatory streamlining or public recognition. Action Item 1.4.5
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) should lead an interagency study with governmental and private parties to assess whether the law provides appropriate incentives for companies to design security into their products, including in regard to liability for harm caused by faulty IoT devices. This includes whether there are adequate protections for companies that do adequately design-in cybersecurity and identification and action regarding any gaps. Action Item 2.1.3
  • Independent organizations should develop the equivalent of a cybersecurity "nutritional label" for technology products and services to provide consumers better information to make informed choices, perhaps linked to understandable and impartial third-party ratings. Action Item 3.1.1
  • The General Services Administration (GSA) should lead efforts to integrate technology across government more effectively and share standard platforms, and improve federal procurement by involving agency CISOs, creating integrated teams of agency technology and acquisition experts, and reforming the procurement and bid protest process. Action Item 5.2.2
  • To address a lack of standards of measurement in assessing cybersecurity preparedness, the CFMWG should develop metrics to assess an agency's cybersecurity posture and integrate the metrics with other relevant measures to evaluate performance as part of the annual budget process. Action Item 5.3.3
  • Congress should consolidate cybersecurity and infrastructure protection functions under the oversight of a single federal agency with appropriate capabilities and responsibilities to do the job. Action Item 5.5.2
  • The President should appoint an Ambassador for Cybersecurity as part of a federal government effort to build consensus, standards and norms to harmonize U.S. and international approaches to cybersecurity and avoid inconsistencies that create unnecessary costs. See, e.g., Action Items 6.1.1, 2, 3.

In a written statement,2 President Obama urged President-elect Trump and the next Congress to consider the recommendations. The President said, "The Commission's recommendations are thoughtful and pragmatic...I believe that the next administration and the next Congress can benefit from the Commission's insights and should use the Commission's recommendations as a guide." President Obama also asked the Commission to brief President-elect Trump and his transition team on the report "at their earliest opportunity."3


1. Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity: Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy (Dec. 1, 2016), https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/cybersecurity_report.pdf. The page count includes the appendices.

2. Statement by the President on the Report of the Commission on Enhancing Cybersecurity (Dec. 2, 2016), https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/02/statement-president-report-commission-enhancing-national-cybersecurity

3. See the penultimate paragraph of the Statement by the President on the Report of the Commission on Enhancing Cybersecurity (Dec. 2, 2016), https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/02/statement-president-report-commission-enhancing-national-cybersecurity.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions