Public-private partnerships are at the core of President Obama’s new Commission for Enhancing National Cybersecurity, according to representatives from the Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The representatives outlined what the commission is going to look like at the Cybersecurity Conference for a New America on Wednesday.

So far, the president has appointed only two commissioners, but Kevin Stine, Chief of the Applied Cybersecurity Division at the NIST Information Technology Laboratory, was certain the commission would have a powerful impact on national cybersecurity efforts.

“The value of this commission is to take stock of where we are in the government and in the private sector,” said Clete Johnson, Senior Adviser for Cybersecurity and Technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He noted that many statutes, executive orders, and cybersecurity changes have come into play in recent months, and the commission is ideally poised to evaluate the efficacy of those movements.

But the ultimate goal of the commission is to look to the future, creating long-term recommendations that can support policy changes as technology evolves.

“The ultimate objective here is to produce actionable recommendations,” Stine said. Part of that objective is to engage public and private stakeholders in meaningful discussion about the nation’s cybersecurity needs down the road. Indeed, representatives from other agencies have already emphasized the necessity of a public-private partnership.

“Our approach has always been to engage early and often,” Stine said, emphasizing that this engagement will ultimately create more widely accepted policy suggestions. “For this effort to be successful, we have to have the immediate support and adoption of the recommendations.”

Looking to the future seems to be the biggest goal of the commission, as the speakers stated that Obama wants it to be a group diverse enough to work with future administrations as well as his own.

“Substantive diversity is built into the executive order,” Johnson said. “[Obama] values above all else not having echo chambers.”

The strategy of diversity could prove valuable in attracting that essential collaboration between public and private institutions. In fact, the Commerce department and NIST were chosen to head the creation of the commission largely because of their past success with bringing private groups to the table. Johnson added that, because the Commerce department has a large focus on business, they speak the same language as many of the corporations and businesses they are trying to attract.

As was the theme with many of the New America conference’s panels, public-private partnership was paramount. Johnson reminded the audience that boards, CEOs, and IT departments would act as the front lines in the defense against cyberattack.

“When you think about the diversity of the cybersecurity landscape, it impacts everybody,” Stine agreed.

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Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.