From: John Bennett [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 1:31 PM
To: Allen, Jessica L. EOP/WHO
Subject: pool report #4
President Obama spoke to reporters for about eight minutes in the Roosevelt Room at the conclusion of a meeting with senior national security officials and cyber security advisers. Seated on opposite sides of Obama around a rectangular table were Vice President Biden and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and Deputy National Security Advisor Lisa Monaco.
Obama was wearing a dark suit, white shirt, dark tie (black or brown) with white dots. All the meeting participants had notepads/notebooks and binders -- all closed -- in front of them, with the exception of Obama, who read from a printed document with details of his fiscal 2017 budget plan.
Also present were Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, NSA Director and U.S. Cyber Command chief Adm. Michael Rogers, and White House Communications Director Jen Pskai. Your print pooler spotted nameplates for White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Attorney General Loretta Lynch but could not physically see either due to the positions of my fellow poolers.
Your pooler is told the White House will release a transcript of the pool spray. Meantime, here are some highlights:
The president’s remarks were mostly about a new cyber security effort proposed in his 2017 spending plan, which he said would devote $19 billion to bolstering and securing America’s information infrastructure.
But Obama started as he has in other public comments in recent weeks by touting his record.
“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last several years,” he said. ““Unemployment is down. Deficits are down. Gas prices are down. Job creation and wages … and health creation are all up.
“As I said during my State of the Union, America is as strongly positioned as any country on earth to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century,” he said. “But what we’re aware of is we have a lot of work to do.”
From there, the president launched into a defense of his 2017 budget plan, saying it contains “proposals that work for us and not against us.”
He said it “drives down the deficit” and builds on the bipartisan budget agreement he signed into law late last year.
Obama gave a brief plug to the anti-cancer program he has tasked Biden with overseeing during the administration’s final year, describing it as an effort that will “go after cancer in an aggressive way.”
The president told reporters his budget “strengthens our national security by increasing defense spending.” (Your pooler, a longtime defense reporter, already can hear the Republican hawks’ rebuttals to that line.)
Mostly, Obama put on a hard sell for the budget plan’s proposed cyber security efforts.
“More and more, keeping America safe is not just about more tanks or more airplanes,” nor about “just a matter of bolstering our security on the ground,” he said. “We also have to bolster our security online. As we’ve seen in the past few years, and just in the past few days, cyber threats pose a danger not only to our national security but our economic security.”
He said his proposed “Cyber Action Plan” has been in the works “for the last months,” adding his team believes it “addresses short-term and long-term challenges.” The proposed $19 billion for cyber programs is, Obama said, “up by more than one-third.” The president vowed his budget would “modernize federal IT” by replacing “outdated systems.”
“One of the biggest gaps between the public and private sector is in our IT space, and it makes everybody’s information vulnerable. Our SS system still runs on a … platform that runs back to the ‘60s,” Obama said, calling many such systems “archaic.”
Obama also tried to explain the need for his proposed cyber programs as non-ideological: “We’re going to really secure those in a serious way, and we need to upgrade them. That is something that we all should agree on. This is not an ideological thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Democratic president or a Republican president.”
He also told reporters that federal cyber recruiting efforts would change under his plan, saying the government needs to be able to recruit the “best talent.”
Notably, the president said his administration will continue work with companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and visa to “help Americans [ensure] they are safe online.”
He also plugged a new “high-level commision on cyber security to help us gather the best ideas from outside the government to focus on long-term issues. Some can solve relatively quickly.” He said the government also needs to better anticipate where technology is going and what cyber threats might be ahead as a result.
He called his “Cyber Action Plan” a “critical and vital first start,” and urged lawmakers to fully fund it.
“We believe we’ll be able to execute this in an effective way if Congress provides us the budgetary support to make this happen. And they should.”
Of the various agencies involved in the proposed cyber security efforts, the president said he would be “holding their feet to the fire to make they execute on this in a timely fashion.”
John T. Bennett | White House Reporter | CQ Roll Call
firstname.lastname@example.org | @bennettjohnt - Twitter
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