The Technology Related Content of the President’s State of the Union Address (software developers/coders mentioned for first time in any SOTU)

January 21, 2015
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By Bob Gourley

state-of-the-union-sotuThe 2015 State of the Union address was full of technology related content. Here are key takeaways from the perspective of a CTO:

The President showed respect for something many American’s may not have heard of, but you dear readers know very well: Coding! In the context of education he remarked that “we’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.” By the way, this is the first time the word coding was ever mentioned in a State of the Union Address. Take a bow developers!

The Internet was mentioned, again, in the context of infrastructure. He phrased it as: “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure – modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”  He then expanded later to say: “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

The cybersecurity context in the State of the Union sounded good but upon analysis leaves me with several unresolved questions. Here is how he put it:

“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids.  We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.  And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.  If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.  If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.”

This is a fantastic goal and well put. I wish our President’s would have been hitting this for the last 15 years. If there is a new activity in government that is going to integrate intelligence to combat cyber threats as has been done to combat terrorism that is certainly news to me (this is NOT occurring to my knowledge, this is not a mission of DHS or DoJ or NSA or CyberCom, although many might say that is what they are there for, none of those are an NCTC for Cyber). So, do we expect to see a new National Counter CyberConflict Center? This is what will be required to do things like the counter terror intelligence sharing efforts.

The call for legislation was very broad. None of the proposals for legislation I have seen will really meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity theft or protect our children’s information. I have not seen any legislation proposed that would make our country less vulnerable to cyber attacks. The legislation I have seen will make positive steps and improve some information sharing. I would call it necessary but not sufficient.

So, the bottom line here for enterprise technologists and executives that lead: Understand you are responsible for defending your infrastructure. Yes you should build a good relationship with your peers and law enforcement and cyber defenders in other organizations you trust. But you should not expect magic. You must mount a vigorous defense if your enterprise or you will be had.


The full text of the SOTU is available at: