A top official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said this week that her office played a significant role in helping to craft the White House’s National Cybersecurity Strategy, and will continue to do so when it comes to implementing the strategy.

“The National Cyber Strategy was a really big deal for the entire Federal government, the nation, and really the world,” DHS’s Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans Chief of Staff Tracy Pakulniewicz said during MeriTalk’s Cyber Central in Washington, D.C. on May 17. “The dynamics that exist within [our] office really had a large role in crafting that document.”

Pakulniewicz emphasized that the Biden administration’s long-awaited cyber strategy is “going to give us the tools that we need to – and the direction and guidance that we need – to make sure that we’re drafting policies, operationalizing ideas, engaging with the right partners, to make sure that we continue to secure our networks and keep our country safe, our homeland safe.”

The National Cybersecurity Strategy flew out of the White House doors on March 2, with multiple focus points including continuing efforts to improve security in already-regulated critical infrastructure sectors, a high-level goal of shifting more security responsibility onto providers of tech products and services, and a robust focus on using “all tools of national power” to go after attackers.

Top officials at the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) said they are looking to release the implementation plan for the strategy as early as next month.

During the closing keynote session of the MeriTalk event, Pakulniewicz said that the strategy serves as the “North Star,” but it is her office – the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans – that is responsible for helping to develop the policy. She quoted the DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans, Robert Silvers, noting that “policy is the nerve center of the department.”

“It’s these things that our office really engages in,” Pakulniewicz said. “We bring all of the pieces together, look at it from a very cross cutting perspective, and figure out what makes the most sense for all of the components for the department, for the nation.”

The strategy really drills down into the international aspect of the cybersecurity effort, with an overriding goal of joining allies and partners to make cyber defense easier and more effective. Pakulniewicz said her office is able to stretch policy beyond the U.S. borders because they “look and think outside the box.”

“We’re also fortunate that we have a Secretary and Under Secretary who are very keen to move the ball forward, and not just create policy that’s stagnant,” she said. For example, she noted that her office recently expanded the Abraham Accords to include cybersecurity, which has resulted in actionable intelligence to help keep networks safe and build more resilient infrastructure.

When it comes to leveraging national tools of power to fend off cyber threats, the DHS official highlighted the U.S. counter ransomware initiative, “where we work with our international partners to disrupt it networks of financial bad actors.”

Pakulniewicz continued, adding, “We’re fortunate to have a Secretary who wants to advance, and make sure while he’s in office we’re leaving the nation better than we found it – especially from a cyber perspective.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.