The Federal government needs to both understand and work with the private sector when it comes to cybersecurity and innovation, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said today.

During The Hill’s “The Future of Defense” virtual event today, Haines stressed by working with the private sector, the Federal government will be better prepared for the future and can engage with a range of partners across the intelligence community.

“We have to work with the private sector. We have to understand what major non-state actors are doing, they are increasingly important to the geopolitical landscape, and we need to be able to deepen our work with them in order to address major threats like cyber or key technology issues that we’re talking about,” Haines said.

“Much of the innovation comes from the private sector and we need to understand that and be able to, in a sense harness it in our work, so I think there’s a lot to be done,” she added.

Haines said the Federal government needs to ramp up its partnerships with the private sector to look at new ways in which the United States is vulnerable, instead of tracking old ways of doing things with conventional and known threats. She said working with non-state actors is the “most challenging for us right now in just making sure that we are prepared as a government.”

In addition to working with the private sector, Haines called for the Federal government to collaborate more across departments and agencies.

“Increasingly, no one agency or department or component for that matter can really do anything on their own without requiring an integrated approach,” Haines said. “As we are trying to promote integrated strategies or responses or all of those things, we need each other, and we’re not always well set up to integrate across agencies and departments in an effective way. That’s something that we need to be more innovative with respect to and that’s another piece of the puzzle in trying to make sure that we’re actually prepared for the future, most effectively.”

During a separate panel discussion, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the U.S. Air Force (USAF) chief of staff agreed that collaboration between departments and agencies is important when it comes to cybersecurity, as well as collaboration with the private sector.

“We are already in contested space when you think about cyber or you think about SolarWinds and some of the other aspects that we see,” Gen. Brown said. “This is where it takes collaboration between the services, but also those in the tech sector that do this for a living, and really how do we actually ensure that we as a nation, and with our allies and partners can maintain a level of cybersecurity and stay one step ahead of our adversary.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.