The White House’s Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) is taking its new National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) on the road in the coming weeks to regional hubs of U.S. space innovation to understand how to bolster the cybersecurity of space systems.

At the Axonius Federal Forum 2023: Adapt event in Washington, D.C. today, Anjana Rajan, the assistant national cyber director at ONCD, said that her office is hitting the road in about a week and a half, and will head to California first.

“We’re going to be meeting with a lot of different folks who are building space companies,” Rajan said. “We’re working with the communities, the community colleges, the mayors, and the ecosystem around it that is supporting that talent.”

“And we’re listening,” she added. “We’re hosting a government workshop where industry is basically coming to tell us what they’re working on, what we’re hearing, and using that to essentially inform an action plan around Space Policy Directive-5, which was cybersecurity design principles for outer space to say ‘what does it mean to actually implement that policy?’”

Rajan went on to say that strengthening cybersecurity in space systems is difficult for three big reasons. First, from a tactical perspective, because “rocket science is hard.” And second, from an economic perspective, space is where innovation is happening – and that needs to be “nurtured with a regulatory framework that is balanced,” she explained.

The final reason, she said, is because of the geopolitical implications. The United States put a man on the moon over fifty years ago, but despite dramatic advancements like that, the world today looks very similar in many respects.

“Once again, we’re in a global conflict with Russia. Once again, we’ve just sent another team up to the moon. Once again, we need to rally an industrial base to meet this moment,” Rajan said. “But the thing that’s different about space race 2, to me, is that software is leading the way.”

The companies that are in space right now have operations in Silicon Valley, she said, and those are some of the same folks who ONCD – along with the National Space Council – invited to its Cybersecurity Executive Forum a few weeks ago on March 28.

“For us moving forward, this is kicking off this next frontier of saying, cybersecurity policy will shape the history books of space race 2,” Rajan said. “And this moment calls for hand-in-hand partnership between the private sector and the government.”

“Now we’re going out to the field and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go to all the major space hubs of innovation in the country – California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Northern Virginia – and say, ‘let’s understand why this particular problem is uniquely different than other cybersecurity problems,’” she said. “Let’s make sure that as we’re building out action plans of space cybersecurity policy, you are in the room with us helping us shape it.”

Rajan emphasized that just because President Biden signed off on the National Cybersecurity Strategy, the work is far from done. Instead, she said, the work is only just beginning.

“Now we have to begin the work,” she said. “What happens in space affects what happens on Earth … and so when we talk about the importance of this ecosystem, it is not just exciting and adventurous, but it’s also core and fundamental.”

“Getting to work on this mission has been very personally rewarding and I think tactically challenging and also very exciting – and we’re excited to continue that partnership,” she said.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.