Obama signs two executive orders on cybersecurity

February 9, 2016

Gregory Korte

Through two executive orders signed Tuesday, President Obama put in place a structure to fortify the government's defenses against cyber attacks and protect the personal information the government keeps about its citizens.

The orders came the same day as Obama sent to Congress a proposed 2017 budget that includes $19 billion for information technology upgrades and other cyber initiatives

Exhibit A: The Social Security Administration system still runs on a platform written in the 1960s in the COBOL programming language, and takes 400 people just to maintain, Obama said.

"If we’re going to really secure those in a serious way, then we need to upgrade them," Obama told reporters Tuesday after meeting with advisers on the issue. "And that is something that we should all be able to agree on. This is not an ideological issue. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a Democratic President or a Republican President. If you’ve got broken, old systems — computers, mainframes, software that doesn’t work anymore — then you can keep on putting a bunch of patches on it, but it’s not going to make it safe."

To implement those upgrades, Obama created two new entities Tuesday: The first, a Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, will be made up of business, technology, national security and law enforcement leaders who will make recommendations to strengthen online security in the public and private sectors. It will deliver a report to the president by Dec. 1.

The second, a Federal Privacy Council, will bring together chief privacy officers from 25 federal agencies to coordinate efforts to protect the vast amounts of data the federal government collects and maintains about taxpayers and citizens.