Nearly a decade has passed since the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) last reviewed the Nation’s communications resiliency posture. In its 2011 NSTAC Report to the President on Communications Resiliency (Communications Resiliency Report),1 the committee examined the then-current communications resiliency landscape and provided recommendations to the U.S. Government on how to enhance the survivability and availability of networks. Recent wide-scale emergencies, like the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, extreme natural disasters, and broadly impactful security events, demonstrate the need to reexamine the resiliency and national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) of the Nation’s communications networks.
In May 2020, the Executive Office of the President tasked NSTAC with examining the resilience of the Nation’s communications infrastructure to better understand and address these challenges moving forward. In response, NSTAC established the Communications Resiliency Subcommittee in June 2020 with two distinct phases and areas of focus.
In phase I, NSTAC conducted an immediate-term examination of the resiliency of the Nation’s information and communications technology (ICT) ecosystem during COVID-19. The committee concluded phase I in October 2020 with the NSTAC Letter to the President on Communications Resiliency, 2 which provided a series of actionable recommendations to assist the Administration with its ongoing policy response to the pandemic.
During phase II, NSTAC conducted a broader, forwardlooking examination of the resilience of the Nation’s NS/EP communications posture. Leveraging its 2011 Communications Resiliency Report and its recent work on emerging technologies (e.g., software-defined networking, network functions virtualization, 5G networks), NSTAC conducted a strategic assessment of potential future NS/EP communications resiliency challenges. This assessment: (1) outlines the general state of the ICT ecosystem 8 to 10 years in the future; and (2) examines how future networks, services, and related infrastructure could assure the necessary level of security and resilience in a variety of event scenarios.
The focus of this report has shifted since the original tasking in May 2020. While the report outlines some of the challenges the Nation faces, it highlights the evolution of the ICT ecosystem toward a highly resilient environment of federated, hyperconnected, distributed networks managed via software. With the advent of 5G and other network advances, the Nation now stands at a point where not only can the ICT providers create meshed and highly resilient operating environments, but enterprises (both Government and commercial) can avail themselves of these capabilities as well. NSTAC contends the resiliency benefits of new technologies and innovations referenced in this report and supported by expert briefings throughout the study period will position the Nation’s economy to not only derive cost and operational efficiencies, but to create an environment for U.S. innovation and leadership in the global economy. As such, the recommendations in this report suggest actions the Administration can take to support the deployment, adoption, and mastery of these key technologies, putting the Nation in a better position to support the Nation’s security, economic security, and emergency preparedness goals.