For over 25 years, the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) has brought up to 30 industry chief executives together from major telecommunications companies, network service providers, information technology, finance, and aerospace companies to provide industry-based advice and expertise to the President on national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) communications policy. NSTAC’s goal is to provide collaborative industry advice and expertise and develop recommendations that assure vital telecommunications links through any event or crisis, and to help the U.S. Government maintain a reliable, secure, and resilient national communications posture.
The five key themes of major focus continue to be:
- Strengthening national security
- Enhancing cybersecurity
- Maintaining the global communications infrastructure
- Assuring communications for disaster response
- Addressing critical infrastructure interdependencies and dependencies
Recent NSTAC Collaborative Efforts include:
- Strengthening National Security & Assuring Communications for Disaster Response
NSTAC conducted a review of the resiliency of the nation’s communications networks to determine how they could survive under different crisis scenarios to ensure essential levels of operability for an array of communications services ranging from simple voice communications to integrated voice, data and video applications. NSTAC recommended steps the government could take to enhance the survivability and availability of communications for emergency response personnel, CIKR owners and operators, and State and local authorities during a time of natural disaster, man-made attack, or crisis. Those steps include, among others, a recommendation to the government to continue to fund the development of next generation priority services to ensure that advanced NS/EP services are operational when needed.
- Enhancing Cyber security and Information Sharing
In its 2009 Report to the President on Cybersecurity Collaboration, the NSTAC recommended that the President direct the establishment of a joint, integrated public-private, 24/7 operational cyber incident DPMR (Detect, prevent, mitigate, and respond) capability to address cyber incidents of national consequence. The recommendation proposed establishing a Government-sponsored Joint Coordinating Center (JCC) for public and private sector representatives from various critical and key resources sectors following an aggressive phased approach. The JCC’s primary mission would focus on robust information-sharing for developing and sharing cyber situational awareness, and would institutionalize the time-sensitive processes and procedures to detect, prevent, mitigate and respond to cyber incidents of national consequence. NSTAC conducted a Pilot Program to test the concept of a JCC. The Pilot Program was trialed in 2010-2011 and concluded with lessons learned and successful outcomes shared with its government partners to advance information sharing capabilities.
- Maintaining the Global Communications Infrastructure
NSTAC conducted a review of the commercial satellite communications networks to assess the enhancements to the national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) telecommunications infrastructure that the use of commercial carrier satellites and Earth terminals could provide.
NSTAC, in response to growing concerns about the need for improved authentication capabilities on telecommunications networks, conducted a study on Identity Management (IdM). NSTAC found that key technical and policy capabilities could improve IdM for NS/EP communications, including the development of a holistic IdM infrastructure, improved interoperability under a federated identity system, and the development of scalable and extendible technical architectures. In addition to its report, NSTAC twice provided Comments to the White House’s National Strategy for Trusted
NSTAC‘s Operational Activities
NSTAC has long recognized the value of information sharing and established mechanisms to enhance NS/EP communications and information systems which continue to be operational. Those include:
NCC NSTAC recommended the establishment of the National Coordinating Center as its operational arm. It also serves as the Informational Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) for the communications sector, where information relevant to the protection and operation of the communications infrastructure is shared between industry and Government. The NCC now functions as part of the DHS NCCIC – the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center - a 24-hour watch and warning center where the communications sector coordinates with the Department of Homeland Security to improve national efforts to address threats and incidents affecting the nation’s critical information technology and cyber infrastructure.
NSIE NSTAC recommended the establishment of the industry and government Network Security Information Exchanges, (NSIE). The NSIE allows representatives from the public and private sectors to share sensitive information on threats to operations, administration, maintenance, and provisioning systems supporting the telecommunications infrastructure.
NSTAC continues to be a model for collaboration between the private and public sector on critical telecommunications issues.