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Cybersecurity: A Better Defined and Implemented National Strategy Is Needed to Address Persistent Challenges

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Citation Edit

Government Accountability Office, Cybersecurity: A Better Defined and Implemented National Strategy Is Needed to Address Persistent Challenges (GAO-13-462T) (Mar. 7, 2013) (full-text).

Overview Edit

The federal government continues to face challenges in a number of key areas in effectively implementing cybersecurity; these challenge areas include the following, among others:

The federal cybersecurity strategy has evolved over the past decade, with the issuance of several strategy documents and other initiatives that address aspects of these challenge areas. However, there is no overarching national cybersecurity strategy that synthesizes these documents or comprehensively describes the current strategy. In addition, the government's existing strategy documents do not always incorporate key desirable characteristics GAO has identified that can enhance the usefulness of national strategies. Specifically, while existing strategy documents have included elements of these characteristics — such as setting goals and subordinate objectives — they have generally lacked other key elements.

These include milestones and performance measures to gauge results; costs of implementing the strategy and sources and types of resources needed; and a clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of federal entities. For example, although federal law assigns the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) responsibility for oversight of federal government information security, OMB recently transferred several of these responsibilities to DHS. This decision may have had practical benefits, such as leveraging additional resources and expertise, but it remains unclear how OMB and DHS are to share oversight of individual departments and agencies. Additional legislation could clarify these responsibilities. Further, without an integrated strategy that includes key characteristics, the federal government will be hindered in making further progress in addressing cybersecurity challenges.

In this report, GAO recommended that an integrated national strategy be developed that includes milestones and performance measures; costs and resources; and a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. It also stated that Congress should consider clarifying federal cybersecurity oversight roles through legislation.

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