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The (cyber) State of the Union – Have we placed enough of a priority on our cyber security since 2008?

By Kristen Tierney


While security seemed to be a major focal point during President Obama’s State of the Union Address last Tuesday night, cyber security did not receive quite as much direct attention. Not surprisingly, national security took a front seat, but this time with very little focus on national surveillance policies. Perhaps it could be because it is the President’s eighth and last State of the Union Address, but the overall tone felt nostalgic, with the President frequently referencing the traditional American “spirit” and “work ethic.” Yet, it was candid and at times even “playful,” with the President evoking laughter several times throughout the night.


The President opened his address by laying out four major questions that he planned to answer, one of which was how we as a nation can “make technology work for us and not against us.” In trying to promote the need for technological developments in science and in medicine, Obama referred to the American “spirit of discovery.” calling for a similar response in dealing with issues like climate change and developing the cure for cancer as there was during the development and buildup of the American space program.


Developments in internet access received a brief but honorable mention, when the President said we have successfully “protected an open internet” and which also allowed for more students and low-income Americans to have internet access. It would have been impossible for the President to address issues of national security without at least acknowledging the looming threat of terrorism. It was at this point that the internet received a less honorable mention when the President acknowledged the use of the internet as a tool for terrorist groups like Al Qaida and ISIL in recruiting new members.

Lastly, the President focused on technology and the role it played in recent economic changes and the challenges that have accompanied these changes. Recognizing the effect that technological advances have had on jobs, Obama noted that such advances affected jobs in all sectors. The President used this as a stepping stone to discuss the growing power of companies and those at the top over the average American worker. It was as a result of this outcome that the President urged for reform in education, calling for computer science classes to make America’s future workforce “job-ready.”


President Obama used his final State of the Union Address to call for what would require a series of compromises in Congress during the remaining months of his presidency and beyond. However, although he addressed the influences of technology in various areas like energy, health and medicine, and the economy, the President’s address seemed to be missing something – cyber security.


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