Communications Sector Partnership with Government

The communications sector has an extensive partnership with the Federal government to address cybersecurity and other matters of national security and emergency preparedness. Our legacy dates back to the 1963 with the creation of the National Communications System (NCS), which President Kennedy established following the Cuban Missile Crisis to develop critical programs and plans to protect the nation’s communications infrastructure. This lengthy history distinguishes the Communications Sector from most other critical sectors. The strong bond between the sector and the federal government continues largely because of the CSCC and two other organizations that have been created in response to earlier threats to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Policy – National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC). The NSTAC was created in 1982 by Executive Order 12382. NSTAC is comprised of up to 30 chief executives from major telecommunications companies, network service providers, information technology, defense contractors and aerospace companies. Through a deliberative process, NSTAC’s members provide the President with recommendations intended to 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. Key areas of NSTAC’s focus include: strengthening national security; enhancing cyber security; maintaining the global communications infrastructure; assuring communications for disaster response; and addressing critical infrastructure interdependencies. Recent reports to the President include:

Operations – National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications (NCC) Communications Information Sharing and Analysis Center. In 1982, federal government and telecommunications industry officials identified the need for a joint mechanism to coordinate the initiation and restoration of national security and emergency preparedness telecommunications services. In 1984, Executive Order 12472 created the NCC. This organization’s unique industry – government partnership advances collaboration on operational issues on a 24 x 7 basis and coordinates NS/EP responses in times of crisis. Since 2000, the Communications Information Sharing and Analysis Center (COMM-ISAC) comprised of 51 industry member companies, has facilitated the exchange of information among government and industry participants regarding vulnerabilities, threats, intrusions and anomalies affecting the telecommunications infrastructure. Weekly meetings of industry and government members are held to share threat and incident information. During emergencies, daily or more frequent meetings are held with industry and government members involved with the response effort.

Collectively, these organizations, in concert with DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), which serves as the Sector Risk Management Agency (SRMA) for the Communications Sector, provide the policy, planning and operations framework necessary to address the nation’s communications priorities.

Members of the communications industry also participate voluntarily in a variety of other initiatives, including, but not limited to, the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC), the National Security Information Exchange (NSIE), industry lead security organizations such as the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) and a variety of other fora that share the goal of enhancing cybersecurity. Indeed, the Communications Sector is a staunch supporter of the voluntary, public-private partnership embodied by these and other organizations.