G 99-218

For Immediate Release
December 10, 1999
Contact: Morrie Goodman
(202) 482-4883
Ranjit de Silva
(202) 482-7002


WASHINGTON-Commerce Secretary William M. Daley today announced that he has designated Assistant Secretary of Commerce Gregory L. Rohde as a key official in the Clinton Administration's Program to protect the nation's critical infrastructure from cyber and physical attacks.

Rohde, who will assume the title of Sector Liaison Official for the communications and information sector, was sworn in on November 22 as Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

"In this global environment of open networks, Greg Rohde will play a vital role coordinating with the private sector to determine the adequacy of security measures for information and communications systems and the data that is transmitted and stored on those systems," Secretary Daley said. Both private industry and governments at all levels agree that there is a growing need to address the challenges of critical infrastructure protection, and NTIA is preparing to play an essential role, Daley added.

On May 22, 1998, President Clinton signed the Critical Infrastructure Protection directive which established the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO). It was established to assist the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-Terrorism. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) has oversight of CIAO which reports to Commerce Under Secretary for Export Administration William Reinsch.

NTIA has responsibility for functions relating to protection of the communications and information sector from both cyber and physical attacks. NTIA is also the government agency directly responsible for providing advice on a full range of telecommunications and information policy, including matters of security.  The President's directive calls for a national effort to ensure the security of the country's vast interconnected infrastructures and requires immediate federal government action, including risk assessment and planning to reduce exposure to attack.

Critical information infrastructure protection is emerging as a major challenge of the 21st century. Every sector of the U.S. economy -- including manufacturing, transportation, energy and utilities, retail and wholesale trade, education, healthcare, finance and government -- employs information technology and services in its operations. Information and communications technologies (ICT) are among the most significant drivers of the global economy, accounting for U.S. $1.8 trillion in spending in 1997, which is approximately six percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

The sheer size of the information and communications market, its contribution to world aggregate GDP, and its rapid growth are extremely significant drivers of the global economy and U.S. trade, Daley said. The expansion of the telecommunications and information sector in the last six years has indicated that this is a sector that propels the United States forward into acquiring new markets and technologies, as well as new suppliers and users, he said.

In his newly designated role, Rohde will serve as the USG Sector Liaison Official for the communications and information sector to work with the private sector on these infrastructure issues. In order to accomplish the objectives of the President's program, he will work closely with NTIA's private Sector Coordinators, a consortium formed by the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA), the U.S. Telephone Association (USTA), and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).

NTIA and the Sector Coordinators will be responsible for the following activities:

o assessing the vulnerabilities of the sector to cyber or physical attacks;

o recommending a plan to eliminate significant vulnerabilities;

o proposing a system for identifying and preventing attempted major attacks; and

o developing a plan for alerting, containing and rebuffing an attack in progress.

NTIA envisions the government-industry partnership for critical infrastructure protection as an on-going, long-term effort. NTIA currently chairs the Critical Infrastructure Coordination Group's (CICG) Education and Awareness Committee, in which the government and private sector work together to increase national awareness of the importance of critical infrastructure protection.