Appendix E: Legal Considerations


Executive Order 13800, Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure requires this report to “describe the legal…considerations…relevant to…” transitioning agencies to consolidated network infrastructures or shared services. Exec. Order No. 13,800, 82 FR 22391, § 1(c)(vi)(B)(2) (May 11, 2017). This appendix, along with the report itself, does so. The report suggests increased use of consolidated network architectures and shared services. Generally, Federal law contemplates that agencies control their own systems and information either directly or through contract. Moving to consolidated network architectures, commercial cloud and shared services generally involves moving away from agency control and thus tends to increase tension with relevant law and requires greater analysis and legal documentation. While additional legal review and documentation would need to be performed during any eventual development of the consolidated network architectures, commercial cloud, and shared services based on their exact facts, implementation of the report’s recommendations can likely be achieved within existing law in most instances, as long as they are designed with a view toward satisfying applicable legal requirements. A summary of some of the main areas of law and legal issues implicated by this report are discussed below.

The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA)

The Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA) and later amendments are codified in subsection II of chapter 35 of title 44 of the U.S. Code. These provisions, which we will refer to here as FISMA, create a whole-of-Government approach to Federal information security1 pursuant to which OMB oversees agency information security policies and practices; DHS administers implementation of these policies and practices for Federal, civilian, executive-branch agencies, including by assisting agencies and providing certain Government-wide protections; and agencies are responsible for providing information security protections commensurate with the risk and magnitude of the potential harm to their agency information and information systems. See 44 U.S.C. §§ 3551-3558. FISMA also requires agencies to implement a minimum set of information security controls and techniques, assess the effectiveness of these controls, comply with NIST standards, DHS directives, and OMB policies, and report certain cybersecurity information to DHS, OMB and to Congress. The consolidated network architectures, commercial cloud, and shared services recommended in this report will need to provide levels of security and transparency that enable agency heads to ensure compliance with FISMA and its related requirements, while also providing technical solutions that fit the needs of multiple agencies.

The Homeland Security Act’s Federal Intrusion Detection and Prevention System

The Homeland Security Act, as amended, requires DHS to “deploy, operate, and maintain” and “make available for use by any agency” capabilities to detect cybersecurity risks in agency network traffic and take actions to mitigate those risks. 6 U.S.C. § 151(b)(1). DHS currently provides these capabilities through its EINSTEIN program and, as required by law, ensures all retention, use, and disclosure of information obtained through EINSTEIN occurs only for the purpose of protecting information and information systems from cybersecurity risks. See id. § 151(c)(3). Federal law also requires agencies to apply these capabilities to “all information traveling between an agency information system and any information system other than an agency information system.” Id. § 151, note. Because this statutory mandate defines “agency information system” as any “system owned or operated by an agency,” the statutory mandate itself does not always require agencies to apply those capabilities to systems operated by contractors. But existing policy requires broader application of EINSTEIN, and DHS and agencies can choose to apply the capabilities to contractor-operated systems.

Privacy Statutes

There are many provisions of law and regulation that that protect personally identifiable information by, for example, limiting access. See, e.g., U.S. Const. amend IV; Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 6(e)(2)(B) (grand jury confidentiality rule); 5 U.S.C. § 552a (Privacy Act of 1974); 26 U.S.C. § 6103 (restrictions on access to tax return information); 13 U.S.C. § 9(a) (Census confidentiality statute); 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (Wiretap Act); 6 U.S.C. § 151 (DHS’s Federal Intrusion Detection and Prevention System). Personnel operating consolidated network architectures, commercial cloud, and shared services described in this report will sometimes require access to such information. Technical capabilities and administrative processes will need to be developed to enable compliance with the laws and regulations applicable to each type of information. This will require a significant role for SAOPs and agency privacy programs.

Request for Information from Third Parties

Agencies receive requests for information in their possession through various means, including, for example, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Privacy Act requests, congressional requests, Government Accountability Office audits, Inspector General inquiries, court proceedings, requests from the White House or other agencies, and other legal process. Legal agreements between shared service providers and client agencies will be required to define who will be responsible for responding to such requests when the information resides in a shared service in a way that satisfies legal requirements and provides agencies with sufficient control over their own information. Likewise, agency notices and regulations should adequately inform the public and others who might make requests of the appropriate procedures for accessing information.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA)

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) increases the authority of agency Chief Information Officers to play a significant role in the planning, programming, budgeting, management, governance and oversight of Federal information technology. 40 U.S.C. § 11319(b)(1)(A). FITARA is consistent with a move toward consolidated network architectures, commercial cloud, and shared services and enhances the legal authority for agency CIOs move in that direction. Among other actions, FITARA and associated policy require agencies to implement data center consolidation strategies that support (i) movement of information technology infrastructure to the as-a-service model and (ii) transition to the cloud. See 44 U.S.C. § 3601, note.

Procurement and Fiscal Considerations

Transitioning to consolidated network architectures and shared services requires consideration of how those products or services will be acquired and funded. In order to consolidate and share services with each other, Federal agencies will need to enter into Interagency Agreements or other appropriate agreements with each other that outline the parameters of their relationship and the applicable authorities that govern, for example, the acquisition of the products or services, how they will be shared and utilized by the parties, and how they will be funded and reimbursed. The specific authorities may vary depending on the circumstances and agencies affected, but may include:

  1. In FISMA, the term “information security” means protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide—

    (A) integrity, which means guarding against improper information modification or destruction, and includes ensuring information nonrepudiation and authenticity;

    (B) confidentiality, which means preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information; and

    (C) availability, which means ensuring timely and reliable access to and use of information.