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Commentary on the Implementation Plan for the 2023 US National Cybersecurity Strategy

The Atlantic Council recently published a detailed commentary on the White House’s “Implementation Plan for the 2023 US National Cybersecurity Strategy.” This plan provides a more concrete list of actions compared to its parent strategy, with clear delineation of lead and supporting agencies, as well as specified timelines. It also includes a new section focused on assessing effectiveness and continued iteration, suggesting that this is not a standalone text but rather a framework for an annual, iterative policy process. Although some milestones are still unclear, the commitment to revisiting the plan annually allows for adjustments and improvements.

Within the plan, there are both clear wins and missed opportunities. Open-source software (OSS) and support for energy-sector cybersecurity receive significant focus, along with a greater budgetary push for technology modernization and cybersecurity research. However, some of the strategy’s most ambitious goals, such as holding data stewards accountable through privacy legislation and implementing a working digital identity solution, have been scaled back or omitted entirely. Additionally, there is a lack of “incentive-shifting-focused” actions, which were originally emphasized in the initial strategy. This backpedaling may be a result of the challenges posed by a deadlocked Congress and the uncertain administrative state, but it risks impeding progress towards the plan’s most ambitious objectives.

One notable aspect of the implementation plan is that many of its goals have timelines that extend into 2025. This long-term timeline raises concerns about managing potential disruptions during a transition, whether it be to a second term for the current administration or the first term of another. Prioritization and acceleration of the listed goals will be crucial to ensure that the boldest ideas in the plan are not jeopardized.

In conclusion, the new “Implementation Plan for the 2023 US National Cybersecurity Strategy” offers a more concrete list of actions and emphasizes the importance of assessing effectiveness and iteration. While there are clear wins in areas such as OSS and energy-sector cybersecurity, missed opportunities and a lack of progress on ambitious goals raise concerns. The extended timelines for many of the plan’s goals also present challenges in managing potential disruptions during transitions. Overall, continued effort and prioritization will be necessary to ensure the success of this cybersecurity strategy.

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