Pragmatics“™ Dan Chenok: Balancing privacy and security on way to stronger cybersecurity

Pragmatics“™ Dan Chenok: Balancing privacy and security on way to stronger cybersecurity - top government contractors - best government contracting event
Dan Chenok
Dan Chenok

The post-9-11 world requires a different approach to cybersecurity “” we all know that. Knowing what to do about it is the hard part. That“™s where Dan Chenok comes in. By day, Chenok is a senior vice president and general manager at Pragmatics, Inc. Chenok has also served on several prominent boards, including the Technology Innovation and Government Reform Group with Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra during the Obama presidential transition. These days, Chenok chairs the Federal Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, a 12-member public-private committee chartered by FISMA that advises the Department of Commerce and the Office of Management and Budget and reports to Congress on issues surrounding information security and privacy. The board recently issued a white paper, Toward a 21st Century Framework for Federal Government Privacy Policy, which suggests updating the Privacy Act of 1974 in light of technological advances. On the heels of that report, ExecutiveBiz caught up with Dan Chenok for ideas on balancing national security with privacy while strengthening cybersecurity.

ExecutiveBiz: Let“™s start with the question of the day. How can we balance national security and civil liberties on the way to stronger cybersecurity?

Dan Chenok: That is a key question and has remained so for a long time. It“™s only been magnified in the post-9-11 world and recently, because cybersecurity has really become an instrument not only of diplomacy but of potential warfare.  This can be seen in DoD“™s coming up with cyber command. We“™ve really seen the advent of a “need to share“ world where civilian and national security agencies, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, are sharing information in different ways. That reality requires different approaches to cybersecurity to ensure that civilian missions around openness and transparency, on one hand, and privacy of information, on the other, are consistent with national security imperatives.

What“™s your outlook on the government“™s response to privacy concerns?

Dan Chenok: Having worked on the transition, I“™m optimistic that the administration is moving in a positive direction and that openness and transparency will continue to be pursued at the same time. Privacy and security are certainly on the minds of everyone in government and industry.

ExecutiveBiz: Some people say FISMA is outdated; what“™s the board“™s take?

Dan Chenok: I think the primary element of FISMA “” engaging senior management“™s attention to cybersecurity “” was instructive. FISMA remains an important part of any statutory framework going forward. That said, the board would agree that FISMA is in need of reform. FISMA has become too compliance-oriented in its application; rather than paying attention to improving real security both at the technical, operational, and management levels, a large, sometimes voluminous certification and accreditation [process] has become the focus of security activities. There are a number of bills in Congress from senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) that would refine the statute. I think we will see a lot of activity in this area, as well in reform, in the next session.

ExecutiveBiz: Turning to transparency, what do you think will emerge from the transparency government is now stressing?

Dan Chenok: From a contractor“™s perspective, the transparency that Vivek Kundra and Aneesh Chopra are offering helps create a more competitive environment. The dashboard, for example, provides a real view into what the government is doing, what information is available on a program, and how it“™s performing. The push for greater transparency also helps set the stage for contractors to develop innovations in key areas that government is looking to address.

ExecutiveBiz: How can government help foster innovation from the private sector?

Dan Chenok: I think it is a challenge because there are a number of requirements, whether legal, policy, or cultural, that have not let the private sector necessarily bring forward their best thinking. That said, I think that as the nation“™s first chief technology officer, Aneesh Chopra is doing a fine job of speaking to private sector leaders about bringing their best ideas to government in a spirit of partnership. I am optimistic about that.

ExecutiveBiz: What“™s the board“™s position on Web 2.0 and social networking in government?

Dan Chenok: That“™s a great question. The board had a December conference that included a number of presentations on cybersecurity and cloud computing in terms of new technologies being promoted by the administration. Most recently, the board has been looking into the concept of Web 2.0 and the use of social media and cybersecurity. I was fortunate to speak at a recent DHS conference about this with a number of panel members. The board will continue to look at this issue because it is key to the administration “” using technology to get information out to the American people in a private, secure manner.

ExecutiveBiz: Tell us about your day job at Pragmatics. What“™s going on?

Dan Chenok: Pragmatics is in both the federal government civilian and defense space. We have a number of core competencies, including IT infrastructure management, software engineering and systems integration, systems engineering, information assurance, and program management support. We do a lot with agile software development, especially for DISA at DoD  and the Federal Aviation Administration. I run Pragmatics“™ civilian agency business, and we have a lot of work with DHS through the EAGLE contract and other vehicles. We“™re a CMMI Level 4 company, which means we“™re always looking for continuous improvement in how we do business. While we continue to grow, we are always looking for new talent and areas to expand our service.

ExecutiveBiz: What is something most people don“™t know about you personally?

Dan Chenok: I sing. I am a member of the Choral Arts Society of Washington, although I am on a bit of a sabbatical because of the age of my young children. I have been with that group since 1991. In fact, in 1995 I was a part of the recording of a piece by composer John Williams that ended up winning a Grammy Award for best classical album.

What do you think of Chenok’s take? Share your comments here.

Interview conducted by JD Kathuria.

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