Government scientists have gained more whistleblower protection and freedom to express personal opinions under the Obama administration, but most agencies still do not give scientists access to drafts and final revisions in which their work played a part, a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found.
"Once we decide that a federal response is warranted, there's still a broad spectrum of actions we could potentially take," said White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel during a Feb. 28 address at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. The White House hopes to expand the tools, both digital and physical, the president can use to respond to cyber attacks.
"We need Congress to enact a suite of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in testimony before Senate committees. The Government Accountability Office also suggests the White House cybersecurity coordinator develop an overarching strategy that integrates the executive order with existing cyber guidance.
Two Commerce Department agencies heavily involved in federal information technology effort will have $49 million deducted from their budgets over the remainder of the fiscal year due to sequestration. In a Feb. 8 letter (.pdf), Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said sequestration cuts at NIST "would largely fall on grants, contracts, equipment procurements, deferment of open positions, and cuts in the repair and maintenance of NIST facilities."
The cybersecurity framework for private sector critical infrastructure called for by President Obama's executive order on Feb. 12 will specify "information security measures and controls" but not "particular technological solutions or specifications," says the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
"We've built a huge kind of an internal laboratory for vetting" the apps, said Jeff Voas, a NIST computer scientist, at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington on Feb. 26. The team has learned, for instance, that certain pixel colors deplete battery power more so than others.
The Justice Department is creating a committee to develop guidance and policy recommendations for forensic science and its use for federal, state and local scientists, law enforcement, attorneys and judges.
The intersection of cloud computing and big data gives government agencies opportunities in areas such as DNA sequencing and national security, said speakers at a National Institute of Standards and Technology workshop. Federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said that the federal government in only at the "tip of the iceberg" in its use of cloud and big data.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced earlier this year a new round of grants for funding to demonstrate identity solutions under the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC. NSTIC seeks to foster conditions that would permit the wholesale replacement of passwords as an online security mechanism through creation of a standards-based identity ecosystem.
The Homeland Security Department's National Protection and Programs Directorate and the National Institute of Standards and Technology say they'll work together more closely on cybersecurity issues following a memorandum of agreement the two agencies signed earlier this month.