Chairman’s Corner: February 2018

I was recently asked to write a piece on cybersecurity for the Washington Times. Below is my article:

‘Zero Trust’ computer policy: A timely solution

Challenges posed by cybercrime are one of the most frightening threats our country faces today.

In recent years, we have had a reactive approach to cybersecurity. We hear about it when an organization has been hacked or sensitive information has been released. Organizations, companies and our government agencies should not simply be reacting when a cybercrime has taken place, but instead need to be proactive.

In order to be proactive, however, the main challenge from which all other cybersecurity issues stem needs to be identified. The United States, along with the entire world, is seeing a global cyber catastrophe that is causing us to reconsider how to establish a network defense. Now more than ever, cybercriminals have access to advanced technologies that put people at risk. That means our government agencies need to establish better defenses.

We have heard of retailers, financial institutions and health care organizations experiencing major hacks, which is why it was disheartening to see that in the 2017 U.S. State and Federal Government Cybersecurity Report, government institutions were listed among the “bottom performers,” scoring lower than retail, health care and information services. I believe that is due to a misidentification of the underlying cybersecurity problem.

The real problem stems from an outdated “computer architecture” that was developed without knowing how today’s cyber connection would look and operate. This obsolete foundation is essentially why cybersecurity attacks take place.

Our defenses are no match for these security breaches. Our computer architecture has reached its ceiling. There was no way the developers and engineers who designed it 40 years ago could have envisioned how the internet and the impact of global connection would have facilitated such cyberthreats. The demand for an increase in computing capabilities and programs overshadowed the computer architecture with the development of the internet.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside experts within the cybersecurity industry who also believe the computer architecture is the main issue at hand. Ed Brinskele, the CEO of Vir2us, has said that IT professionals are dependent on what the “experts” determine are the best practices or defenses for cybersecurity.

“The difficulty is that there has been a significant failure on the part of solutions providers to recognize that a keeping-the-bad-guys-out approach reveals a failure to correctly identify the problem,”  Mr. Brinskele said. “Once the checkpoints in these solutions are bypassed, they provide virtually no security. This is known as an outside-in and top-down approach and is a fundamentally flawed strategy. As a result, these solutions only addressthe symptoms of a much more fundamental design problem.”

To address these newfound security challenges, antivirus and firewalls were created to provide somewhat of a Band-Aid. These solutions are not good enough to combat the technology that is available to cybercriminals.

Our outdated architecture is a sinking ship. There are a number of holes in the boat, and we keep trying to patch it up instead of rebuilding it so we can float. These patches include heuristic algorithms and whitelisting, but even these solutions continue to fail. They simply cannot withstand the constant and ever-changing threats.

Additionally, it is virtually impossible to attempt to pinpoint threats from a list-based strategy. Every day, these lists evolve and develop. There is no way to stay current on possible threats or attacks.

“Antivirus and firewalls are list-based solutions and can only deal with known threats. In today’s world of morphing viruses and malware, these solutions are less than 27 percent effective,” Mr. Brinskele continued. “[A leading consumer cybersecurity firm] recently said that their average time to identify threats and update lists is more than nine months. In a challenge that is moving at the speed of light this is problematic. While combating challenges moving at the speed of light, that solution is unacceptable.”

Not only do these outdated solutions consistently fail, they are also extremely inefficient. It has been reported that these “legacy solutions” can consume up to 80 percent of network bandwidth capacity and computer processing power. These inefficiencies negatively impact revenue and productivity. According to the U.S. Government, global business and institutions lose over $1 trillion to fending off cybercrimes and attacks annually.

Rather than trying to fend off possible attacks, implementing a “Zero Trust” policy or architecture would be significantly more practical and successful than fighting to stay current on a list of emerging threats. With a Zero Trust architecture, the “Known” list is manageable and can be maintained.

As cyberthreats continue to unfold, we need to take a hard look and consider improving our computer architecture. A new approach and a radical change within the cybersecurity industry needs to take place in order to provide dynamic security.

Compromise to Control the Chaos

This 2nd Session of the 115th Congress continues the slow roll that began on October 1, 2017 restraining Federal agency operations for fiscal year 2018 (FY18) under the very limited prescription of a continuing resolution (CR), with nothing but uncertainty in the forecast.  

The first CR, in which current rate funding authority was extended through December 8, 2017, was assumed to provide Congress sufficient time to produce a bi-partisan, bi-cameral budget agreement that would afford Federal agencies the needed budget certainty for FY18. But, as we approached the end of CR #1, the political landscape ignited and leaving fiscal chaos in its wake. And, rather than faithfully and dutifully dispense with FY18, an astonishing 5th continuing resolution is nearly underway.

Last November, we detailed the self-imposed, statutory barriers obstructing Congress from any meaningful progress toward a full-year budget agreement, barriers imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA). Yet Congress left this simmering, untouched, almost willfully resigned to governing through a chain of CRs where only precious few programs and national emergent needs can [necessarily] be addressed. Despite near unanimous agreement and desire to relax the offending provisions of the BCA, attention has been fully directed elsewhere.

Until recently, the inflamed rhetoric from both sides of the political divide ignored the finer discussion required to appropriately fund the government. Thankfully, it now appears that House and Senate leadership may be on the cusp of an agreement to finally dispense with the BCA spending limitations. What is most regrettable is that the BCA has been the one legislative impediment where the solution, whatever it may be, has always enjoyed a small degree of political harmony.

Unfortunately, Federal agencies are set, once again, to begin their controlled stumble over the starting line of another CR. For the extended term of this 5th CR, some 40+ days, the Nation may well enjoy an encore of the acrimony that consumed the public discourse, deepened the partisan divide in Congress, and resulted in the recent 72-hour government shutdown. Entrenched positions on defense vs. domestic spending, the border wall, and other elements of immigration policy, just to name a few, have hijacked the appropriations process. It’s not that these matters don’t warrant passionate debate and deliberation. It’s really a question of when and how to deal with them. The last 5 months have demonstrated that finding any sort of amicable solution, even if temporary, requires a seemingly impossible level of accommodation within Congress. An attempt to mollify these issues in any meaningful way within the parameters of a catch-all omnibus appropriations measure cannot and should not happen.

Legislating, fundamentally, is the art of “give and take”, of “receive and recede”. These unresolved matters that led to the government shutdown are indeed civic imperatives that impact our national security, and perhaps even social and economic stability. But, they remain unresolved entirely due to the complete lack of concession from either side. This stalemate has eroded Congress’ fiscal responsibility. The one compromise that must now occur is that which will release fiscal year 2018 from the stranglehold these macro-level policies currently have on the daily functioning of our Federal government.

Neither the game nor the players have changed since FY18 began over five months ago. As this fourth overtime expires, Congressional leaders must now agree that the timing and need for a final omnibus is too urgent and too great. Employ the “germaneness test” and consider an omnibus that includes only that which is necessary for the proper and efficient functioning of the Federal government. This will produce the needed, if barely digestible, compromise to dispense with FY18, and then move to consider the macro-policy issues under regular order. After all, there is a movement afoot that will soon blind-side the Congress irrespective of current events. In just days, the President’s FY19 budget will be delivered to Capitol Hill, further compounding the fiscal responsibilities that lay before Congress. Compromise has been a lost art this year, but it’s now more than necessary to control this continued chaos.

Diving into the 2018 National Defense Strategy

In January of this year, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis released the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) where he openly stated: “Our competitive advantage has eroded in every domain of warfare.” Required by Congress, the NDS replaces the former document known as the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The NDS further builds upon the National Security Strategy (NSS) that was previously released in December 2017. It does differ in one important way though, the NDS is classified and therefore, Secretary Mattis could only release the unclassified 11-page summary.

The U.S. military has concentrated on 5 main security challenges in the last decade including; China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Islamic terror groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. This document moves the U.S. away from terrorism as the top mission and more closely focuses on near-peer adversaries like Russia and China, which the document labels as “revisionist powers”.

According to the strategy, the American military will be organized in such a way to credibly confront and defeat near-peer challengers across the spectrum of warfare and its multiple domains. The document primarily focuses on the Asia-Pacific and Europe as the two highest priority threats while at the same time, maintaining forces and controlling the constant upheaval in the Middle East.[1] According to the NDS, the U.S. Department of Defense is choosing to prioritize preparation for future conflicts which could ultimately come at the expense of fighting present day wars against groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Secretary Mattis is putting more concentration on developing new “capabilities” rather than on expanding “capacity”. In other words, the Department of Defense will emphasize innovation, modernization, and acquisition more than it will prioritize the expansion of the size of the military by adding more man power. [2]

The new strategy changes some force planning structures from its last unclassified version which emphasized the military would be designed in such a way to fight and win two major wars simultaneously. The new NDS sets up its structure in such a way that it prioritizes defeating a single major power in addition to being able to maintain a small number of other efforts in various regions against an array of enemies.

Relevance vs. Performance

In a separate section of the NDS, the document states the importance of the ability to “deliver performance at the speed of relevance,” and further states that “the Department is over-optimized for exceptional performance at the expense of providing timely decisions, policies, and capabilities to the warfighter. Our response will be to prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation, and frequent modular upgrades.” If the Pentagon does choose to further focus its efforts on speed over quality or performance, it could cause major disruptions for the defense industry and its current business models. If the Pentagon chooses a new approach that seeks to acquire weapons systems faster, emphasizing less testing, risk minimization and lead-ahead capabilities, the ripple effects on the defense industry would be profound. [3]

Cost of Strategy

Although the NDS does summarize many investment areas, including cyber, space, nuclear, long range fires and missile defense, it does not say how or where the Department of Defense will cut costs to help forge ahead with these new efforts. This will be better understood and explained through the release of the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the Ballistic Missile Defense Review (BMDR) that are to be finished and published in the coming weeks. These studies should include the estimate costs of maintaining a credible nuclear force and a homeland missile defense system.

The NDS does include a short and succinct risk section primarily for a message to Congress on the detriment that constant Continuing Resolutions (CRs) have on our military force. “Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize our military to make it fit for or time, we will rapidly lose our military advantage resulting in a Joint Force that has legacy systems irrelevant to the defense of our people.”

Next Steps

The Pentagon expects to deliver its fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget request to Congress in the next couple of weeks, but a much-awaited defense buildup may not happen until fiscal year 2020 (FY2020), according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. He did state that while FY19 will include a “step up” in the defense budget, FY20 will be the “masterpiece”. Because the NDS, NPR, BMDR and the previously released National Security Strategy (NSS) were being organized at the same time as the FY19 budget, there simply is not enough time to include all of these reviews and studies in the upcoming budget, Shanahan said. “A big portion of my time in the next twelve months will be to make sure (the FY20 budget) is the masterpiece. It is probably the next biggest step we can take to make sure we can unwind the strategy,” he said. [4]


  1. Karlin, Mara. “How to read the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” Brookings. January 21, 2018. Accessed January 23, 2018.
  2. Karlin, Mara. “How to read the 2018 National Defense Strategy.” Brookings. January 21, 2018. Accessed January 23, 2018.
  3. Levinson, Robert. “What the New National Defense Strategy Means for Contractors.” Bloomberg. January 25, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2018.
  4. Mehta, Aaron. “Pentagon expects on-time budget for 2019 but Trump’s ‘masterpiece’ will be in 2020.” Defense News. December 22, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.

 

How Lesser Known Federal Programs Benefit from their Higher Profile Counterparts

Families that benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) let out a sigh of relief on January 22 when the program they rely on for health insurance was reauthorized for six years. While the greater healthcare community was equally pleased to see CHIP reauthorized, proponents of lesser known programs that contribute to the healthcare system now fear they may have missed the boat.

When it comes to federal legislation, transportation analogies do apply to healthcare programs. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which offers voluntary, evidence-based home visiting for at-risk families with small children, and the community health centers, where many CHIP recipients receive their care, are just two of the lower profile programs that have historically “traveled” along with the CHIP “vehicle.”

Why do some federal programs rely on others to carry them through to reauthorization?

For starters, there is simply not enough time for Congress to formally consider every federal program up for reauthorization through regular order. Congress is tasked with funding the federal government, finding new solutions to problems that arise nationwide- such as the current opioid crisis- and reacting to unforeseen events both domestically and around the world, in addition to thoughtfully examining and updating existing laws.

To add to that challenge, Congress must find consensus between its upper and lower chambers, a task that has become increasingly difficult. For that reason, and many others most of which are related to the political climate, Congress tends to pass packages of legislation rather than individual bills. Large or popular programs, such as CHIP, become the focal point of the legislative effort. Smaller programs become bargaining chips during the negotiation process. Historically, programs such as MIECHV were considered “sweeteners” in a broader health extenders package because of bipartisan support for the program from influential Members of Congress.

Last month, CHIP became the “sweetener” in a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. This turn of events- using a large and popular program to negotiate in favor of an unpopular spending tactic- has created a stir in the health policy world because it has taken away the opportunity for other programs to hitch a ride with CHIP. Now proponents of MIECHV, the community health centers and their counterparts have been left searching for another vehicle to travel with.

Spike in Congressional House Resignations in 115th Congress

A flurry of resignations is sweeping through Congress, leaving many House seats open. As of late January, fifty Representatives had announced they would not seek reelection in 2018. As turnover rates peaked during the fall of 2017, the number of Members leaving is challenging averages from previous years.  In the 113th Congress, forty-one members did not run for reelection.  Roll Call reports that an average of twenty-two House Members retire each election cycle.

The majority of Members not running for re-election are from the Republican party, totaling thirty-four Republicans and sixteen Democrats leaving their current offices. In the Republican party, 18 are retiring, 12 are running for a different office, and 4 have left their seat open for other reasons. In the Democratic party, 6 are retiring, 2 resigned, and 8 are running for a different office.

These recently announced vacancies will lead to several high-profile midterm races in 2018. In the House, vulnerable districts could flip in key states, since the Democrats only need twenty-four seats in the House to regain a majority, making upcoming midterm elections especially important.

Bi-Partisan Education Summit to be Held April 11-12

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute will host its first Reagan Institute and Summit on Education (RISE), to be held April 11-12 in Washington, D.C.

RISE coincides with the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 and also marks the 35th anniversary of the 1983 National Commission on Excellence in Education report, “A Nation at Risk.”

The summit is convened by a steering committee that includes Honorary Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander and bipartisan advisors including former Chairs of the House Education and Workforce Committee Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, John Kline and George Miller as well as several former education secretaries.

Current leaders in the House and Senate education committees will also participate. Building from “A Nation at Risk”, RISE will explore innovation, excellence in education, access and affordability to quality post-secondary opportunities among other topics. For more information on RISE visit: www.reaganfoundation.org/RISE

Chairman’s Corner: January 2018

With the start of a new year comes the sense of a new beginning. Many of us will make New Year’s resolutions. Some will succeed and follow through with these goals. Some will simply recommit to goals they have set in the past, but for whatever reason, were not able to see come to fruition.

I, too, have set a number of goals – both personally and professionally. While I have new goals for myself and for our firm, there is one goal that I plan to “recommit” to. It is a goal I try to expand on each and every year we are in business and that is to better live up to the McKeon Group standard.

Responsive. Reliable. Results.

That is the McKeon Group standard. That is what we promise our clients. That is what we deliver. But there is always room for improvement.

As this new year unfolds, I have decided to find measurable ways in which I can better live up to the McKeon Group standard.

I plan on responding to our clients’ needs and helping them see growth and success. When I commit to getting a job or task done, our clients can rest assured knowing that it will be handled in a timely manner. In turn, our clients will see unprecedented results.

As we at the McKeon Group gear up for the 2018 year, our clients can expect us to be responsive, reliable, and ultimately see results – just like they have seen since we opened our doors. The only difference is this year we plan to take it up a notch.

Happy New Year to all!

Chairman McKeon Named a Featured Speaker for the Worldwide Speakers Group

Chairman McKeon has become a featured speaker for the Worldwide Speakers Group. The Worldwide Speakers Group is the “leading global professional services firm providing innovative solutions in the global lecture industry to corporate, trade, education, and commercial customers worldwide.”

There are a number of requirements that must be met in order to become a featured speaker. Chairman McKeon was selected to be a speaker specializing in the following topics: education, government and politics, inspirational and motivational, leadership and strategic management, news and media, success and teamwork, as well as world and international subjects.

Chairman McKeon’s bio and Worldwide Speakers Group profile can be found here.

The McKeon Group Office Expansion Complete

Following a 2017 year that was full of growth, the McKeon Group took necessary action in order to ensure that their office space could accommodate their growing business. It was announced in the December newsletter that the McKeon Group offices were in the process of expanding. Now, just over a month later, all renovations have been completed and the new expansion is complete.

“Now that our office expansion is complete, we are anxious to get to work,” Howard McKeon, President of the McKeon Group, said. “We expect to capitalize on the growth that took place in 2017 and see even more success in 2018.”

The McKeon Group headquarters are located in Alexandria, Virginia. The expanded offices accompany their current space. With over 9,000 square feet of space, there will now be more than twenty offices and three conference rooms.

The McKeon Group Team Highlight: January 2017

During the Fall 2017 semester, Anna Pope worked as an intern for the McKeon Group. Pope was responsible for working with government affairs clients during her time as an intern. At the conclusion of her internship, Pope accepted a full-time position for the McKeon Group as an Associate.

Anna Pope is a government affairs intern at McKeon Group and graduated from Virginia Tech in May of 2017. Anna is from northern Virginia and attended public school in Fairfax County. During her undergraduate years, Anna served in Student Government Association, worked as a Writing Center coach, and interned at Holland & Knight, LLP.