The House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation held a hearing this week to unpack the National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) that was released by the White House earlier this month.

Kemba Walden, recently appointed acting director of the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD), appeared before the panel on March 23, acting as the face of the NCS and defending the document’s plan to make the digital ecosystem more secure and resilient.

“I am eager to share with you how the president’s strategy will make our digital ecosystem more secure and resilient,” Walden said. “The president’s strategy lays out how the United States is prepared to meet the challenges in cyberspace from a position of strength, leading in lockstep with our closest allies, and working with partners everywhere who share our vision for a brighter digital future.”

During questioning, Walden was met with bipartisan support for the NCS, but many lawmakers were eager to know when the official implementation of the strategy will be afoot.

“There are many burning questions that I have about implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy,” the inaugural Chairwoman Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said. “We all look forward to hearing from you this afternoon on the strategy document itself and … discussing how and when the rubber meets the road on how rhetoric can be translated into action.”

Walden was not able to offer specifics on ONCD’s implementation plan for the NCS, but she said her office is working closely with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to lead the whole-of-government effort.

“ONCD, in collaboration with OMB, are going to lead the development of this implementation plan, and in fact, we’ve already started that work,” Walden testified.

“This is a plan that, as we articulate in the strategy, will be public,” she said. “It will be developed – it is being developed – in full collaboration with all the departments and agencies who are going to be charged with certain action items, and with the private sector, and with civil society, and with Congress to make sure that the strategy realizes the vision that we’ve made out.”

“This strategy is new and novel in my mind because we’ve attempted to, where appropriate, place departments and agencies responsible for certain action items. We will build that out in the implementation plan,” Walden explained.

The acting director could not offer the subcommittee a specific timeline for the implementation of the NCS, but she assured them that ONCD has “already started the work.”

“We’ve created an implementation plan working group that convened the other departments and agencies,” she said.

Walden also mentioned that ONCD is currently working with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a national cyber workforce and education strategy – as outlined and called for in the fourth pillar of the NCS.

Both Chairwoman Mace and Ranking Member Gerry Connolly, D-Va., expressed their eagerness to bring Walden back for a follow-up hearing in front of the subcommittee on the implementation progress of ONCD’s NCS.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.