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Blog Entries from August 2013

Incentives to Support Adoption of the Cybersecurity Framework

Guest post by Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Cross-post from Whitehouse.gov

The systems that run our nation’s critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, our drinking water, our trains, and other transportation are increasingly networked. As with any networked system, these systems are potentially vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and protecting this critical infrastructure from cyber threats is among our highest security priorities. That is why, earlier this year, the President signed an Executive Order designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. The Order does this by focusing on three key areas: information sharing, privacy, and adoption of cybersecurity practices.

To promote cybersecurity practices and develop these core capabilities, we are working with critical infrastructure owners and operators to create a Cybersecurity Framework – a set of core practices to develop capabilities to manage cybersecurity risk. These are the known practices that many firms already do, in part or across the enterprise and across a wide range of sectors. The draft Framework will be complete in October. After a final Framework is released in February 2014, we will create a Voluntary Program to help encourage critical infrastructure companies to adopt the Framework. 

While this effort is underway, work on how to incentivize companies to join a Program is also under consideration. While the set of core practices have been known for years, barriers to adoption exist, such as the challenge of clearly identifying the benefits of making certain cybersecurity investments. As directed in the EO, the Departments of Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury have identified potential incentives and provided their recommendations to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and the Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs.

Why is Everyone Talking About Africa?

President Obama and Senegal President Sall at press conference. Photo by White House, Pete Souza.

Claudia Easton is an intern in the International Trade Administration’s Office of the National Export Initiative and Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee. She’s studying Economics and Political Science at Amherst College. Cross-posted from Tradeology.

With the President’s recent trip to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as the announcement of two new trade initiatives, the spotlight is on Africa – and with good reason.

While speaking at the Business Leaders Forum in Tanzania, President Obama spoke of beginning a new level of economic engagement with Africa. The Doing Business in Africa Campaign (DBIA) is part of the president’s strategy, and the International Trade Administration (ITA) is proud to join other government agencies to support  DBIA initiatives that are helping U.S. businesses compete on the continent.

Trade Africa aims to facilitate expanded trade on the continent. Its initial focus will be on the East African Community (EAC), a market with increasingly stable and pro-business regulations. The plan will support increased U.S.-EAC trade and investment, EAC trade competitiveness, and regional integration. The United States seeks to expand this initiative to other regional economic communities on the continent.

Power Africa is intended to build on Africa’s enormous power potential to expand electricity access to the more than two-thirds of the population that is without power. The President pledged $7 billion in U.S. government support, in addition to $9 billion in private money, over the next five years to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. Power Africa will help attract investment in Africa’s energy sector, build capacity for reform in the energy sector, and encourage transparent and responsible natural resource management.

Shark Week? At NOAA Fisheries, Every Week is Shark Week

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Sharks thrill us because they’re mysterious, powerful, terrifying, and beautiful. That’s why there’s a Shark Week. And, as top predators in the marine ecosystem, sharks are also vital to the health of the ocean. That’s why there’s a corps of NOAA Fisheries scientists and managers who are dedicated to researching and protecting sharks. This week, on the NOAA Fisheries website, you can meet our shark experts.

You can also check out a very cool and—don’t say we didn’t warn you—disgusting video of our expert, Antonella Preti, dissecting the stomach of a 12-foot-long, 1,300 pound shortfin mako shark. She specializes in the feeding ecology of sharks, or more specifically she studies what’s in their stomachs. By analyzing the contents of more than 2,000 swordfish and shark stomachs, Preti and her colleagues have built a database of who eats who in the ocean, an essential tool for managing fisheries. Preti shows us it really takes guts to be a scientist.

Also, meet Lisa Natanson, an expert on the life history of sharks, and see her role in analyzing the age of the shortfin mako. A shark backbone has rings much like those of a tree that can help a scientist determine a shark’s age. On Thursday, August 8, at 2:00 p.m. EST, Natanson and Preti will hold a live tweet chat to answer your questions about shark science and anything you might want to know about the shortfin mako.

John Carlson is a shark scientist whose research focuses on rebuilding vulnerable populations of sharks and sustainably managing shark fisheries. Listen to this podcast to hear Carlson discuss his research into whether sharks are more likely to survive if caught on a circle hook instead of the more common J hook.

You’ll also find loads of other shark content, from videos to photos to interviews with more experts.

At NOAA Fisheries, our goal is to sustainably manage shark populations so that we can continue to enjoy the economic and ecological benefits they provide. And we do that every week of the year. So visit our website at www.fisheries.noaa.govduring Shark Week, and learn what we’re doing to create a sustainable future for sharks.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

A One-Stop-Shop on the Health Care Law for Businesses Big and Small

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Cross-posted from the White House Blog by Valerie Jarrett 

As we implement the Affordable Care Act, we continue listening to the needs of the business community. Based on our many conversations with leaders of our nation’s businesses, large and small, today we are launching Business.USA.gov/healthcare, a one-stop-shop where employers of all sizes can go for information on the Affordable Care Act.

The new site includes a web-based tool that allows employers to get tailored information on how the health law may affect them based on their business’ size, location, and plans for offering health benefits to their workers next year. From tax credits for small businesses to help make coverage affordable, to measures to help slow the growth of health care costs, there are a variety of ways that the Affordable Care Act can help businesses expand health care coverage and compete.

The site leverages the resources of our partners across the federal government to ensure that business owners get comprehensive health care information and easy-to-use tools, such as a timeline of key implementation dates; information about the SHOP Marketplaces and small business tax credits; and resources to help calculate a firm’s number of full-time equivalent employees or determine if the coverage they already offer meets the law’s minimum value standards.

The administration is working with the employer community to ensure the site continues to be a helpful resource for businesses and their employees, including updating the site with additional, timely information, so stay tuned.