Jeb Bush’s Cybersecurity Plan Explains Why Silicon Valley Won’t Show Him The Money

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHERYL SENTER
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHERYL SENTER

Despite all his wooing efforts, GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s latest cybersecurity plan might not help him make friends in Silicon Valley. The former Florida governor laid out a five-point plan — complete with pot shots to competing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration — to better prioritize national cybersecurity and spur tech innovation. But the thrust of his key points seem to alienate the same industry he’s trying to court.

“Let’s not mince words: in order to achieve 4 percent [economic] growth and the 19 million jobs that come with it, we need a vibrant and secure Internet,” Bush wrote. “Cybersecurity should be considered a critical element of our national defense and economic well-being.”

To do that, Bush believes that intelligence agencies need less public criticism, more money and more power to do their jobs. “We must stop demonizing these quiet intelligence professionals and start giving them the tools they need,” he wrote. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation also needs more resources to fight back against the onslaught of cybercrime.”

Despite Silicon Valley’s vocal support of government surveillance reform in light of the 2013 National Security Agency document leaks, Bush emphasized pushing through the Senate-stalled privacy bill that privacy groups staunchly protested in August for giving government agencies more access to consumer data — the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

The House of Representatives has passed a bill to facilitate information sharing by, among other measures, providing liability protection to private-sector companies that share cyberthreat information with each other or with the government. Unfortunately, the bill languishes in the Senate due to opposition from Senate Democrats. The President should lean on these Democrats to allow this bill to come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Civil liberties groups criticized CISA for expanding private tech companies’ legal protection if they agreed to share knowledge of cyber threats which could include consumer online behavior and personally identifying information. Inline with his support of the bill, Bush stressed the importance of public-private partnerships to best keep America’s data safe, but put the burden on government to lead the way.

“If we do not make cybersecurity a priority, we will continue to see major breaches and damaging attacks,” he wrote. “We need to change the culture of government, which is impossible absent presidential leadership. Leadership means not hiring political hacks or cronies for critical positions that involve cybersecurity. It also means holding executive branch officials accountable for their failure to prioritize cybersecurity and protect the networks under their care.”

Bush lags significantly behind fellow GOP candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in Silicon Valley funding, packing away $525,000 compared to Rubio’s $3 million.

The presidential legacy, however, hedged his bets and laid out traditional GOP talking points to open up the tech sector to encourage startups and creativity to win over people in the tech community who disagree with his take on cybersecurity and government data sharing.

Bush suggested that lowering business taxes, minimizing regulatory barriers including paperwork, and turning immigration into an “economically-driven system” that attracts highly-skilled foreign workers would fuel technological innovation. The latter, and somewhat awkward, point counters Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s policy proposal released last month, which suggested diverting tech jobs to qualified Americans by raising the minimum wage in the controversial H-1B visa program.

Bush’s proposal strikes a sweet and salty balance for Silicon Valley — prioritizing government intelligence access, which will infuriate consumers and potentially stifle revenue, and slashing taxes and regulatory obstacles that will appeal to tech executives on an individual and corporate level. But only time will tell if the industry is buying it.