Trump Promises to Ask the Pentagon for a Plan to Defend the Country from Cyber Attacks

By Joseph Marks

November 23, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump will ask the Defense Department and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyberattacks and all other form of attacks,” according to a video posted Monday.

Trump included the plan in a list of “executive actions we can take on day one to restore our laws and bring back our jobs.” Other items on the list included withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, removing rules that limit energy exploration and ramping up visa fraud investigations.

The cyber protection pledge may be a slight modification of a plan the incoming president posted to his campaign site in October. That plan called for an investigation of cyber vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure conducted by a “cyber review team” that would include members from the military, law enforcement and the private sector.

Unlike “vital infrastructure,” which has no fixed definition, the term “critical infrastructure” is typically used within government, to refer to 16 sectors defined by presidential directive, including financial services, transportations, chemical facilities and dams.

The Trump transition team did not immediately return an email seeking clarification.

The Homeland Security Department is currently tasked with ensuring the cyber protection of U.S. critical infrastructure with protection measures supplied by the companies themselves. U.S. Cyber Command has responsibility for protecting DOD networks and supporting DHS in protecting critical infrastructure upon request.

Officials and lawmakers have historically been wary of tasking the military directly with defending civilian and private sector systems. 

By Joseph Marks // Joseph Marks covers cybersecurity for Nextgov. He previously covered cybersecurity for Politico, intellectual property for Bloomberg BNA and federal litigation for Law360. He covered government technology for Nextgov during an earlier stint at the publication and began his career at Midwestern newspapers covering everything under the sun. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and a master’s in international affairs from Georgetown University.

November 23, 2016