CEOs Resign from Trump’s Cybersecurity Commission

Eight members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council resigned last week, citing insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cybersecurity by the Trump Administration.

Eight members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council resigned last week, citing inadequate attention by the Trump Administration to address growing cybersecurity threats facing the United States.

President Donald Trump’s Administration has “given insufficient attention to the the growing threats to the cybersecurity of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend,” according to a resignation letter signed by eight members of the President’s private-public National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

The members of NIAC also said they resigned in protest to the Trump’s response to deadly clashes in Charlottesville earlier this month between white nationalists and Antifa protesters. The move is similar to resignations within two White House business councils that were also disbanded earlier this month over  concerns by members over Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence.

“The moral infrastructure of our Nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built. The Administration’s actions undermine that foundation,” read the resignation letter  (PDF) first published by NextGov.

NIAC is a public-private government council which advises the President on cybersecurity systems in finance, transportation, energy and manufacturing. The original 30 members were appointed by previous administrations and included leaders from the private sector, academia and state and local government. It was founded by George W. Bush administration’s executive order in 2001 and was extended until Sept. 30, 2017 by the Obama administration.

Resigning members cited Trump’s failure “to denounce intolerance and violence of hate groups” in the wake of “horrific violence in Charlottesville.” They also pointed to the Trump Administration’s move to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as part of their reasoning to resign.

“Additionally, your decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, your intent to revoke flood-risk building standards, and your many other actions to ignore the pressing threat of climate change to our critical infrastructure also point to your disregard for the security of American communities,” they wrote.

Cybersecurity expert Edgard Capdevielle, CEO of Nozomi Networks, said the move will have a negligible impact on U.S. cybersecurity defenses. “While the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) provides the President through the Secretary of Homeland Security with advice on the security of critical infrastructure, the actual standards and frameworks for securing critical infrastructure come from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

The resignations come just before the commission held a quarterly business meeting. The agenda of that meeting was to approve a report titled “Securing Cyber Assets: Addressing Urgent Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure (PDF)” released Monday.

The draft report warns that the country’s cyber defenses and readiness is falling short when it comes to defending critical systems against cyberattacks. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, came to a similar assessment earlier this year. And just last week at an Arizona State University’s Cybersecurity Conference U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said “Unfortunately, leadership from the executive branch on cybersecurity has been weak.” 

“As America’s enemies seized the initiative in cyberspace, the last administration offered no serious cyber deterrence policy and strategy. And while the current administration promised a cyber policy within 90 days of inauguration, we still have not seen a plan,” McCain said.

In total, eight of  the 28 current NIAC members resigned. Three Obama-era officials were among those that took to Twitter to announce their resignations. They included White House Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil, Office of Science and Technology Policy Chief of Staff Cristin Dorgelo, and White House Council on Environmental Quality Managing Director Christy Goldfuss.

Earlier this month the Trump Administration disbanded the Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the Manufacturing Council and Strategic and Policy Forum when members resigned en masse.

“I continue to believe that public-private collaboration is vital for addressing gaps we face in security across all U.S. infrastructure sectors. I remain committed to applying my experience and expertise to advance American security and prosperity through other means,” wrote the resigning members of NIAC.

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