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Venable partner and retired Navy Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett was interviewed in a February 13, 2014 Washington Post article on the Federal Communications Commission’s role in protecting the nation from a cyber attack. While the agency’s role is not yet known, options include helping telecommunications companies implement a recently released cybersecurity framework, writing new rules on network reliability, and leaning on a recent federal court decision over net neutrality.

The article notes the FCC’s interest dates back to 2009 when then Chairman Julius Genachowski appointed Admiral Barnett head of the commission's public safety bureau. In that position, Admiral Barnett created the FCC's Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division and launched three programs with broadband providers to fight botnets and prevent emails from being hijacked and rerouted to foreign countries.

Admiral Barnett said current Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to take a broader approach to protect the nation’s communications from online attacks. “Chairman Wheeler told me, 'I do not intend to be sitting in the chairman's seat when a major cyber attack occurs, having done nothing,'" said Admiral Barnett. Now, much of the FCC’s cybersecurity push will be led by retired Navy Rear Admiral David Simpson who, according to Admiral Barnett, will be charged with expanding the cybersecurity agenda “across all bureaus” of the agency.

While the FCC’s plans could create tension with other agencies, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, Admiral Barnett says the FCC’s technical expertise with communications should smooth over any conflict. “Whether it's cable, wireless or wireline, there is a tremendous body of knowledge at the FCC that just does not exist at DHS,” he added. “They collaborate with us. We collaborate with them. The FCC is consulted on networks.”