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I'm Sue Dynarski. I'm Co-Director of the Education Policy Initiative at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Nice to see you all here today. So, this policy talk lecture marks the opening of the conference on student loans which would not have been possible without the general support of our cosponsors. And I'd like to recognize the Upjohn Institute and the Spencer Foundation for their work and their funds in making this event happen. So, thank you so much. So, this conference is going to be bringing together some of the country's--I didn't write this, some of the country's top minds, on an issue that not only interest us but affects many of us in the room. So, today's speaker is President Obama's Special Assistant for Education Policy, Roberto Rodriguez. The most important thing to know about Roberto Rodriguez is that he's Wolverine. So, he's an alumnus of the University of Michigan. He also got a degree from Harvard in education, but that's OK. Since then, he's been at this Appointment. He was Chief Education Counsel to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, assisting in the development of education legislation. He contributed to the development of the No Child Left Behind Act, and he's worked on various reauthorizations of federal legislation including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Head Start, Child Care, Higher Education, and the America COMPETES Act. And he'll tell you what that acronym means. So, before I ask Roberto to the podium, I want to remind you that if you've got a question for him, write on one on of the cards that's getting passed out in the entrance or you can tweet it in using the #policytalks, one word. And Roberto, the floor is yours.
Thank you. Thanks, Sue.
[ Applause ]
Hi, good afternoon everyone. It's a real honor to be with you here today for this important conversation. I really want to begin by thanking Sue and Dean Collins, and the entire faculty here at the Ford School for inviting me to be here. And of course, special thanks to the Upjohn Institute and to the Spencer Foundation for their generous support of engaging in this really important topic. It's really great to be back home. It's really great to be back among my fellow Wolverines, and here at our University of Michigan community to have the conversation here today. I really want to begin by making the connection that's rather obvious to most of us that are gathered here today, but I think it's nevertheless central to the conference and to the arc of the papers and discussions that you'll explore in the coming two days. And this is really the simple reminder that perhaps more than at any other time in our nation's history, higher education is really the engine for our economy and the spark that is going to continue to ignite our democracy. There are countless examples from across the country of how earning a college degree really opens the doors of opportunity. For families, it places them on a greater pathway toward economic mobility and prosperity, and success. Examples of how the pursuit of a college degree helped young people find their place in their communities, in their worlds around them, and in their country. And that will certainly the case for me during my time here at the University of Michigan. In the mid '90s, as an undergraduate that will still feeling he's way about his academic path, eager to set forth and to change the world. And in today's economy, as President Obama reminds us, a college degree is the surest rung on the ladder of opportunity into the middle class. A new global economy brings new challenges, new demands, but it's very clear that gone is that economy of a quarter century ago where a worker with a high school credential could make at least half of what a college graduate would earn across their lifetime. So, we know that education is the strategy for our 21st century economy. Our children are competing with the rest of the world for jobs of the future, and our long-term economic security is directly tied to the quality of the public education that we can provide today. That's why this topic that we're exploring over the course of this conference is so important. You know, many of you here are esteemed in this field, in this academic discipline. You're familiar with the statistics. You know that our economy clearly rewards those with the higher education. We know that our college graduates have higher earnings that we know also that there's a real imperative here is 8 and 10, new jobs in the US will require some post-secondary education or training. And the 30 of the 30 fastest growing jobs in our economy today, over half of those require a four-year degree. But beyond this economic imperative, we also have to at the onset here of our conversations, remind ourselves of the moral imperative that we have, the moral responsibility we have. And that we're a nation that defines ourselves based on our ability to provide every individual the opportunity to rise as far as their hard work and their initiative will take them. And so, increasing access to higher education is fundamental to living up to that moral commitment. And it's one of the best things that we can do for our country. This is why we've organized our efforts in Washington around the goal that the president laid out when he first arrived at the White House. And this is a goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, he calls this goal our North Star. And that's exactly what it is. It's a guide post and it's a reminder to us to strengthen education at every level and to deliver on this challenge. So, in order to reach this goal, we'll need to increase the share of college graduates that we produce in our nation by 50 percent over what produced in 2009. And by the numbers, this means 8 million more young adults will need to earn associates and bachelors degrees by the end of this decade. We'll have to outpace our current rate of degree attainment relative to our population growth which has this more or less producing about 3 million more college graduates by the end of the decade. So, we play such an emphasis on this 2020 goal because we know that higher education is such an important investment worth making. We know again the median earnings of bachelors degree recipients are markedly higher 21,000 dollars or more than high school graduates. And we know that it really does provide a true ladder into the middle class. Of adults who grow up in the middle class, 31 percent of those that have a college degree were operatively mobile into the top income quintile between 2000 and 2008. Now, this is compared with just about 12 percent of those that did not have a college degree. So, especially for students that are graduating into weak economies, it's frequently something and can often take time to find the path that ensures that going to college was really worth it. But those with more education tend to experience larger increases in their earnings as they age and we know that based on current earnings' patterns that if people with bachelors degrees work full-time over their work lives, they'll earn about two-thirds more on average than a high school graduates. So, we know we have this imperative that it's a backdrop to this 2020 goal. It's an ambitious goal, the pace of progress for our young Americans and college attainment is very ambitious under this charge. But one thing is really clear. We're not going to meet it unless we really embrace a spirit of change in our higher education system. And that is going to involve a shared responsibility that expands from leadership at our higher education institutions, to state legislators and governors, to public and private stakeholders, parents, and of course ultimately students, to be able to accelerate towards this 2020 challenge. And reaching the goal will require also a collective will on the part of policy makers and partners, higher education leaders, philanthropy, and others, to really ask the tough questions that are ultimately going to foster change in our higher education system. Are we doing right by our students? Do they have the reliable sources of aid and support that they need to be successful and as they pursue their degree? Do our colleges and universities have the proper capacity to harness innovation? And are we equipped with the right incentives to drive reform focused on improving the educational experience for students while they're on campus? Our federal and state policy is well-attuned with a mission, a vision, and a focus that promotes not only higher education access but college completion. Are we confronting the state of teaching and learning on our college campuses and aligning it with the needs and demands of 21st century learners?
[ Applause ]
[ Pause ]
Thank you very much once again for coming to speak with us. We have a whole bunch of questions. I hope you are ready.
All right. Let's start with this one. This is from the audience. Should we be concerned that Lincoln College ratings to outcomes like graduation will provide incentives for schools to manipulate these measures? For example, by making classes easier or weakening college degree requirements?
Yes I think we have to be vigilant about that. You know--this is, as I mentioned is challenging endeavor to develop a new rating system and we have to be able to look at the interactive effect of the various variables that would be intergraded there. There is clearly opportunity if we were looking at graduation rates for instance alone to gain that system. And that's why we also need to be looking at new measures around quality and making sure that we're focus in attending to the rigor of teaching and learning at our institutions. And we have some measures that we can look toward now there. Particularly looking at gainful employment as one. But we need more, we actually, honestly need more innovation in that space, we need better measures of teaching and learning at the postsecondary level. We have not turned our attention as a country from an education prospective to developing better measures there unlike in our K-12 and early childhood sector where there a lot of measures around quality.
Roberto, my name is Mark Weatherspoon [assumed spelling], I am a doctoral student in the higher education program here at Michigan. This is kind of similar to the question that was just asked, but do you think that there would be any type of influence of this present score on the current accreditation system? And if there is not what do you think about the occurring accreditation system? And do you think there's any changes that we should be focusing on?
Well, you know--I thank you for the question. I do think we need to endeavor to improve the current accreditation system. And, you know, part of the President's message at the beginning of this year in the State of the Union was to take on this challenge of reforming accreditation. You know, I think at the institution level, you have state level as well as regional and discipline specific accreditors constantly coming and looking at whether that institution's accredited. Many of those institutions--many of those processes do not focus on outcomes as much as they should. Many of them focus too much on inputs. So we believe we need to have a new conversation about accreditation. We're hoping we can have that as part of the reauthorization that Congress might consider of the Higher Education Act. And we also believe we need more alternate systems of accreditation. Because we believe that there are new innovations that are that are taking shape today in our higher education landscape that are not either well suited or willing to go through the more traditional accreditation process. But that might be producing good outcomes for students. So we can't lose sight of that and we need an alternate process to be able to recognize that too.
Thank you. Sorry I neglected to introduce myself last time, I'm Danny Christman. I'm a staff here at the Ford School. Let me give you one last one about the measures. What are the defining parameters of what the administration considers "called high quality education?" For example, can you give us some more specifics, the factors that might go into the ratings?
Sure. Well, you know, we're looking at the rating system at measuring issues like access. You know how many--what is the share of low income eligible students for instance that the institution is enrolling. We're looking at issues around affordability, what is the change in net price for instance and how does that square with, you know, some of the other data that we have with respect to maybe--if it's a public institution how much the state is investing in that institution? And we're looking at factors around outcomes. We're looking default rates. And we want to look at some measure of gainful employments, some measure of future earnings as an important proxy there. You know, right now, through the [inaudible] process, the government collects data on about 15 different indicators across our higher education institutions. So we have quite a bit of data already out there. I think the challenge here for us is going to be how to distil that in a really thoughtful system that is fair to institutions that compares institutions in a fair manner, because our higher education sector is tremendously diverse. It's one of its strengths, right. We have great two-year colleges, great four-year colleges, public, private career colleges, more liberal arts institutions. So, we want to be able to have a system that's going to recognize the new ones there. And overtime, we'll be setting for the technical advisory group that will help our Department of Education navigate the development of this type of system.
[ Pause ]
I guess we're going to kind of switch gears a little bit here. This question is probably a three-hour, it needs a three-hour response, but five minutes will do. Let's talk about gainful employment.
OK, let's talk about it.
Yeah. Can you--just real quickly, where are at on the state of gainful employment? How big of a factor is this going to be in the higher education system? And do you think that such a policy will possible deter students from seeking out specific majors or philosophy?
That is another three-hour lecture.
We'll try to tackle it. You know, our administration had taken the first foray into regulating on the congressional requirement for gainful employment of Career College programs. These are programs that are vocational in nature that are preparing students to enter a particular field of employment. You know, we have promulgated a rule earlier in our administration that looked at debt to earnings ratios as an important measure of success, as well default rates in the context of calibrating a new system that looks at gainful employment and that whether individual programs, not whole schools, but individual programs offered within schools are delivering on this commitment and this requirement by statute. Many of those schools are actually--many of those programs are operated at community colleges. But many of them are also operated at for-profit institutions. And many of those for-profit institutions--some of them are wonderful actors. Others, unfortunately, are not delivering or they're--you know, students are graduating, unable to enter gainful employment or with very high levels of debt or default. So, the key to making sure that we are not curtailing, a necessarily options for students is to make sure that we have thoughtful system that's measured. I would point out that we're already beginning to collect data from the sector. And I think we're seeing a relatively low share, less than modest share of institutions that actually are not able to meet the proposed matrix that we're initially part of our administration's rule. But there are number of institutions out there that have programs that didn't measure up. We now are back at the negotiating table, that's where we are right now because there was a part of our rule that was stayed by the court, by the circuit court. And we are reconvening negotiators to look at redrafting a new rule around gainful employment. I can't talk too much about the particulars of that rule because those negotiations are actually ongoing into the next--into next month. And that regulation will continue to take shape. What I will say is we are going to continue to pursue this because we believe that it's an important function of our government to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We do not want taxpayer dollars going to programs that are saddling students with that and that are not resulting in a gainful employment and not enabling them to repay that debt. And we are going to take a close look at the concentration of programs that are failing those measures on the basis of the disciplines, right? Right now, I don't think we have data that suggests that there is a particular discipline that would be disproportionately impacted by the administration's original gainful employment rule. But we'll continue to look at that moving forward because we now have--we'll soon have two years worth of data to be able take a closer look at that question.
I majored in philosophy. I'm not sure how much I would recommend that. So here's one from the Twitter world. If you could make one change in the entire education system to improve equity, we had several questions about equity, what would that be?
Well that--it's a challenge because there's a whole lot we need to do in equity across the pipeline to create of their career. But I think the single most important change that can be made in terms of really tackling the impact of poverty on learning is to provide all of our children a high quality education before they reach kindergarten. And this--the contours of that plan is the President's proposed that is to provide preschool for all low and middle income four-year-olds in the country. And make sure that that preschool is high quality. We have had study upon study that had demonstrated the return on investment upwards to seven dollars for every dollar invested, there's individual benefits, there are broader community benefits, economic benefits. And it's, you know, we've seen this also tried in communities around the country both at the state level and at the local level. And we've seen tremendous impact here. I would turn folks to the recent study that was released by the Foundation on Child Development that Deborah Phillips, who was the author of one of the Neurons to Neighborhoods National Science Foundation Studies, helped compiled that shows the benefits of high quality pre-K. We believe that it's one of the key drivers for equity moving forward. And if we can do that, we have the opportunity to begin to remediate that achievement gap and that learning gap that already is manifesting itself at 60 points between low income children and their more affluent peers by the time they reach kindergarten.
This is another one from the Twitter--not Twitter, from Twitter. There is no empirical evidence on effective long counseling. So what is the Department of Ed doing to revise its services and why not fund research?
Good idea. I think we should do more to fund more research on that front. You know, we do believe that we need to do a better job of reaching borrowers and providing them greater counseling. You know, we've definitely know that the tools that we're provided previously were not sufficient. So what we've done has gone back to the drawing board and created a new interface that all students can interact on at--it's at www.ed.gov. If you link on student aid, you can interact with the college counseling tool and loan counseling tool that, as I mentioned in the remarks, really reaches borrowers at every point in their college career from entrance through school and then, obviously, accept counseling. You know, information and transparency around data is one of the most important things that we can do in this sector, in terms of providing a greater focus on outcomes and on quality, in terms of making sure that families and students are well-equipped to make good decisions. And that's just something that we know to be true. I think we can probably fund research to better calibrate our loan counseling tools, but we don't, as approach see any harm in trying to provide students better and more targeted assistance and help in understanding the options available to them.
[ Pause ]
To meet the President's goal for degree attainment the higher education must engage more nontraditional adult and part time students.
The federal policy seems to be shifting towards tying federal aid to shorter times to degree completion. How can these two imperatives be reconciled at the national policy level?
That's a good question. You know, I think we have to acknowledge that, you know, four years is no longer a traditional trajectory for college attainment, right? I mean, I think we have that reality, you know, across our even traditional four-year public colleges and universities, that is certainly the case, if not more so at our community colleges where you have, you know--and increasingly at our public four years where we have more students that are working while they're pursuing their studies, more adults that are returning to pursue their studies and balancing work and family. And we know that we can't reach the President's charge to us around 2020, if we don't do more to help adult to be successful in the system. So, you know, we have to keep that in mind as we're shaping policies and moving things forward. One example is to think about what we can do to support perhaps some changes or modifications to the program particularly for adult students. Right, and I think we've seen some innovative research coming out of Louisiana, you know, looking at performance-based awards for degree attainment that aren't necessarily pegged to this specific timeframe but where awards are allocated based on the amount of credit that individual cruse almost as a reward or support as they pursue their studies increasing and focusing on persistence. You know, I also think there are other interventions, smaller learning communities and cohorts of students moving through together particularly for our adult students and our nontraditional students so to speak that we found to be--that research is found to be successful. So I think we near myriad strategies there to be able to support our adult students and certainly we don't want to have one size fits all policy when it comes to making sure that our students are successful, we have to take them into mind those populations.
This one is going to be--I think this might be from a professor.
[ Laughter ]
'Cause it deals with massive open online courses.
Did--kind of been viewed as a way to increase access at low cost. But how do we insure quality? And what does the administration's role or what is the administration think of the role of massive open online courses in higher education?
You know, we believe that technology can be a real driver for innovation in higher education. When it comes to massive online courses, massive open online courses or books we believe that we have to do more to scale the types of assessments that are needed to know whether they work. You know, we don't yet have the series of performance-based assessments that enable us to know that students are progressing through a particular online module or MOOC that they'll be successful. And so, I think those assessments are currently being developed by a number of the various providers. We hope that--and we believe we have a role at the federal level to help support greater assessment and greater tools that can be used as institutions of higher education and private individuals develop these MOOCs. So that we have a better sense of what's working in that space. I think we're still learning a great deal about what's working and what could work when it comes to online learning in higher education. Our National Science Foundation is doing some studies of that work as well. So we're going to continue to learn from that. I'll say the one thing that I think is most exciting in this space is that once we're able to understand what adapted platforms and what online innovations are most successful with our learners we can apply that to the Science of Learning on College Campuses. And if we can help support a new conversation with our faculty members about how to use technology and embed that in a blended way in their course work that has the potential to reach a far greater number students than--that are currently enrolled and currently pursuing their higher education than just relying on MOOCs as a substitute platform for higher ed.
OK. There are two questions on this, I'm going to amalgamate them here for you. I'm also going to paraphrase because, one, it needs paraphrasing. So in essence why create a rating system rather than just provide public information? The other one says, another know before you know campaign, why is this administration so strongly focused on consumer choice?
Well, you know, I'll take the last one first, which is that we believe that the pursuit of higher education for too many students is too opaque, honestly. We believe that, you know, we have not done enough to help support states in the process of, you know, defining standards and defining learning progressions that will help--that are very clear, that are easy to understand for the public and that help, particularly young people graduating from high school, understand what it will take for them to get their college degree, understand the various pathways they have, you know, to reach their--to reach a four-year degree for instance. That's not to say that we're not seeing innovation in that space, you know. We're starting to see, you know, states like Florida and other systems, you know, the Arizona system, for instance that's starting to look at defining learning outcomes and aligning that articulation between two-year and four-year colleges so that students are actually able to more seamlessly finish their associates degree, transfer to a four-year institution and finish that four-year degree in half the cost sometimes of students that might start out at that four-year institution. So, you know, that's just one example of a place where we don't have enough transparency for families and for students. We collect a bunch of data, as I mentioned. We collect 15 different indicators. We don't provide that data in a really easy to understand reliable format for parents or for families. So if you think about higher education as one of the most important investments you can make as a family, you're sitting around the college table or you're sitting around the kitchen table. And thinking about choosing a college, you want to be able to have that data just as you would if were buying a home and you'd be able to go on homes database and be able to print out a comparable format to at least know it's not going to tell you everything about those particular options but it at least provides a level of comparable data. We believe that's needed. And that's why we're so focused on providing consumers information. Now, you know, that's not all we need to do, right. That is not where this conversation needs to begin in that. We have a lot more to do to support affordability and innovation to actually make sure that that translates into opportunity for students. I forgot the first part of your question, I'm so sorry.
That's OK, I think that covered most of that--
--couple of [inaudible].
So, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have income-based loan repayment programs for all students. Yeah.
US limits these options to the lowest income borrowers, why not expand this option for everyone?
Well, I think it's a good question and a good issue for us to look at. You know, we are focused right now on our low income borrowers because we have only a fraction of--we believe we have captured only a fraction of the students who most need and could most benefit from income-based repayment. And that's why I mentioned we are starting to target some of our subsets of borrowers who we know might need the most help and could really benefit from IBR. But, ultimately, I think it's a good question, a good debate for us to have. And something good for Congress to consider in terms of whether we can expand IBR more actively to more students and ultimately tell the students across the country. You know, we're not there yet, that's an expensive proposition as well so it's something that we would really have to have the funding to be able to support. But, you know, it's something that we are--that we're eager to talk more about and to explore in Congress.
So here's a question from Twitter about loan repayment. It says, loan repayment is complex and do you anticipate a partnership between the Department of Education and Treasury so repayment can go to the tax system?
Yes, I mean, I do think we are going to try to do more to support this. We are, you know, we've been able to fortunately really forge a strong partnership on the income-based repayment front as well as on the passive front with our friends at Treasury to be able to import tax information in a more seamless way, so that individuals are better able to know whether they qualify for benefits. You know, we think we should try to do more of that and try to do more of that experimentation with respect to loan repayment as well. And you know, I think we're not quite there yet. But you know, I think we're beginning to have conversations that haven't been had before between our Department of Education and the Department of Treasury to explore the possibilities there.
This is from Twitter too. I think their first sentence is written into some sort of Twitter language. So if I read it--
Are there a lot hashtags?
Yeah. 21.18 percent cohort default rates and some for profit schools. I don't know if that's a question or--but, at what point do we shut them down or cut them out of federal aid?
Yes, I mean we believe we need to cut them out of some point of federal aid. You know, that is the whole premise behind again for employment regulation. And again, I can't speak to the details of that in terms of the thresholds. You know, we had a rule that we were very proud to promulgate as an administration on this. And you know, I think fortunately that rule would have not only had the effective of making sure that we were failing to provide the financial aid to the worse programs that clearly are bad actors of the sector. Because that level of default is just, you know, over 20 percent default rate. But--and also I think potentially it has the effect of the broader sector of Career College programs improving their performance. And again, you know, federal regulation sometimes has this impact of if it's crafted in a thoughtful way of raising the bar and helping to improve the performance of other actors that may not be subject to the sanction. But that--see that coming and know that there's a drive to get better and a need to do better. We believe that that's needed particularly in this sector for the very issue that I mentioned in my remarks so that the default rates are so high.
So I'm encouraging colleges to cut cost. So one way that colleges will cut cost is to increase the share of faculty or part time low paid adjuncts? And this seems likely to erode quality. How will the emphasis on affordability prevent colleges from cutting waiver cost at the potential? So will it--will this--encouraging them to maybe to hire more part time faculty possibly erode teaching quality and have an adverse effect from what you're going for?
Well, you know, I think this is similar to one of the earlier questions as well, which is that we need to keep our eye on quality here. And this can't be a tradeoff in the name of affordability that compromises the quality of instruction or education at our institutions. And it's a challenge. I mean it's really on a--I'll be honest, you know, I mean making sure that we are--we have the right measures to know that our students are receiving a high quality education. You know, we have our outcome data post graduation, that's the best and most reliable thing that we can look toward right now. But, you know, we know that there are tremendous benefits to a great higher education including the great liberal arts education that I received here. So, you know, we don't want to curtail that. And, you know, we need to keep an eye on making sure that we have good labor practices across our education sector, that's something that this President is very focused on and very supportive of.
I believe the percentage of low income students attending to college would and should be much higher than it currently is. However, how do you convince colleges from a business standpoint that creating programs to recruit these students is a good idea as low income students would be bringing in less money to the school? And they need more aid in the form of institutional grants and loans?
That's a great question. You know, it gets to the premise of shared responsibility here. And it's not just around recruitment, it's actually around enrollment and completion. You know, because we have actually some really good recruitment programs and practices across our institutions, particular in a number of our selective institutions including the University of Michigan does a fine job of recruiting our low income students. You know, we also need to collectively share our best practice around making sure that we're retaining all the students and that they are completing at our institutions of higher education. And that is another area where we want to really invest an innovation and bring forth what's working well at our colleges and universities. It helps scale those types of practices at our institutions. But, you know, ultimately we believe that we need to have real commitments here from our institutions of higher education to take those students, you know, when you have real honest conversation. And again, I'm not really advancing new policies in the space today in this conversation. But I do believe we need a national conversation around admissions, you know, we need national conversation around retention, we need a discussion around those types of tradeoffs around packaging aid. And, you know, we have right now a situation where if an institution is well and out and it has a real commitment to the diversity, it has the ability and the will to be able to make more pathways available for more low income students. Then others institutions sometimes do, you know. And then we have a question of public education for the public good. And public higher education for the public good, which is something that I think, and I hope we us a country have a conversation about in this higher education reauthorization because, the strength of our public colleges and universities is that it has to be able to serve all our individuals. And particularly be that pathway for our low income and first generation college course to be successful. So, you know, I don't have a perfect answer for that. But, you know, I think there is--it's a question of will, both political will of the institution of its board of regions of its leadership of the state. And then it also means to implement programs and practices, both recruitment and retention that are successful.
I think we have time for one more. How's the administration looking at the--into the quality of K-12 preparation in terms of college success?
So, you know, we have forged ambitious agenda to really improve the quality of our elementary and secondary education system over the course of the first terms. This is another lecture which could be another couple hours. But, you know, ultimately we've really launched a new national effort to helps support state in a new partnership around racing standards, so that they actually prepare students for college and career level work. I don't think the public fully appreciates where we were with respect to college and career readiness as a system. We had standards that, you know, were defined by 50 states and, you know, curriculum, obviously, that's define by, you know, over 15,000 school board. So, we have a very desperate system. But we need--if are to be successful in preparing our students for college, we need to begin with the expectation that they must graduate, each and everyone of them college ready. And that's college ready at a level of learning that prepares them for entrance into a four year college without the need for remediation. So, we had states that were setting standards, let's take seventh grade math for instance, at levels that were 70--of mastery, levels of mastery that were 70 points below neighboring states. All right, that's over two grade levels worth of learning in terms of what's expected first students to be successful, just illustrative in middle school math. We are not going to be competitive as a country if we are having that level of variation and that a student zip code determines the level of mastery, at which here she is expected to attain. So, we have launched a raise to the top and we've supported a new reform and redesign of the No Child Left Behind Act with new flexibility agreements with our states, to be able to recalibrate these systems--these state systems to college and career readiness. And I think once we're able to really raise those expectations for all of our students. So, that they are competing in earnest with student across the globe rather than learning at a level that--of mastery that is really substandard. Only then will we really be able to get were we need to go with respective preparing all of our students for college.
It's told we have time for one more.
So there's the last one here. In rating systems we'd like long run measure--we would like long run measures like earnings because we think that the short one measures might not accurately reflect the quality of the school. It doesn't look like we will have those in our rating system when it starts. How will the system get around something like that?
Well, you know, I think we're going to need to look at the measures that are at our avail. I don't want to predetermine what specific metrics will be in the system nor how they will interact because that is something that is still under development, careful development by our administration. And it is something that we're going to be seeking public comment on and advice some technical experts about--I will say that, you know, I think we need to look at as reliable data as we can find with respect to earnings and postgraduate outcomes. And we're hopeful that we will have some good long term data to be able to look at. I don't know whether it's going to be reliable and comparable across every institution. But we're going to keep our eye on that and, you know, we're going to look to the support and help of experts to grant how that might be calibrated into a broader system.
Thank you very much.
Thank you Roberto.
[ Applause ]
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And I'm going to give you about 10 more seconds or so.
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All right, looks like we have our results. So after the event, were going to take another poll in the same manner. And we're going to look at how minds have been changed [inaudible]. Now, before we hand it over to the debaters, I'd like to welcome Dr. Bob Axelrod who's going to give a few opening remarks on cyber security issues. Thanks.
So I just want to give a little background and context. You may have seen yesterday's story the New York Times that the United States has established that cyber espionage has been going on for several years at a large scale. It has been traced to a unit of a Chinese army and therefore the attribution seems pretty clear and the question that the article raised was, is the Obama Administration ready to call the Chinese out on this and it says that they scale it back or else, and then what would be the or else? So the cyber security issues are with us daily but the espionage issue is one that has been on the forefront of the news media but there's others that can come. Now, espionage is traditionally being dealt with by everybody is denying they do it and everybody doing it. And then everybody when they find some--somebody committing espionage, they typically will deport a persona non grata any officials of the other government and then arrest and prosecute anybody else. And then the government whose officials were declared persona non grata typically takes exactly the same number of officials on the other side and expels them. This tit for tat has been going on quite all throughout the Cold War and the numbers are always precise. But with cyber, it's not so easy because there's nobody in particular to expel or to arrest or to prosecute. And nevertheless, the espionage goes on. And from the Chinese side, it's clear at least that they are after three different kinds of things. One is industrial secrets. For example, they went after Coca Cola. You may wonder why. Well, it's when they were negotiating to purchase an agreement with Chinese software--soft drink companies. So there were millions at stake in that. They've also gone after military secrets, of course. And they're going after the [inaudible] there, we help them identify dissidents, for example, the reason they--apparently reasoned they've gone after Google and New York Times and Wall Street Journals are to find out in the newspaper case when they publish stories about Chinese dissidents, who was it that provided those names and what were they and they want to get inside of the reporters and things. But, of course, cyber issues could become very much larger than the espionage. They could become part of a major conflict either independently. Cyber activities being in the fore or combining as what the pentagon likes to call Connecticut Task. Connecticut Task are things that go boom. So those are physical attacks and, of course, cyber activity could be part of those as well. And in the past, we have seen them used by the Russians for example in two cases. One against Estonia where the--they were denial of service attacks and its still ambiguous as to whether Russian government was directly supportive of that or whether it was sort of cyber patriots within Russia who are mad at Estonia. But it was also down against Georgia when the Soviet's--remember when the Russians attacked Georgia. There was also attacks on their government and industrial system that caused some damage. The Iranians have also used cyber techniques. For example the hijacking of the American Drone and have it land in Iran where they could display it and presumably sell it the Chinese. And, of course, United States and Israel apparently have used what's called [inaudible] to interfere with the Iranian nuclear program. And it was a crossing of a thresholds in terms of actually sabotaging an industrial system whereas other things have been strictly within cyber domain. A major question is can we prevent cyber conflict from getting out of hand by anticipating what some of the problems are and acting in advanced to had those off by some kind of mutual understandings or agreements and that's exactly what the debate resolution gets to. How can we go about in a cooperative manner reducing the risk of major cyber conflict and if so, what has to be done to make that even possible to start down that road. And with that, I'll turn it over to our debaters and maybe you're going to moderate that.
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I noticed that Steven has more minds to change than I do so I feel the pressure. But my answer to the question is, yes, definitely we should begin negotiations. But I want to specify with whom and for what purpose and set a little bit of context. The internet is clearly one of the most remarkable phenomenon that we've ever seen. It began in the early 1970's with four people who imagined a network of 100,000 main frame computers world wide and did not fathom what was going to happen.
Thank you, Doctor Steinbruner. Hello, Doctor Bucci [inaudible].
Good evening, it's great to be here. And as mentioned I'm trying to convince you that I'm not opposed as in, no, we shouldn't ever do negotiations on the international scale regarding cyber but that not yet and the reason I say that is this. Right now in the United States, we have huge differences of opinion between men and women of goodwill from all over the political spectrum not broken down along partisan lines that disagree about issues of security versus privacy. Is security and privacy really--are they really the opposite ends of the spectrum of these issues? Should we use regulatory frameworks that try and increase cyber security or should we use market measures to do that? Who should be the lead in this area? Should it be the public sector or should it be the private sector, some combination of the two? And again, this is not a republican versus democrat kind of deal. If you look at the bills that have been tried to gotten through and have failed, everyone of them has had bipartisan support by the people who wrote the bills and everyone of them has had a very strong bipartisan opposition against them because there are actually some honest disagreements about the best way to go forward with this. Before we go into an international forum to try and negotiate with other countries who have in some cases very different visions of the internet that we do, we need to figure out where the heck we think we should be? You know, I realize there might be some value with starting those discussions to help us come to those conclusions of where we should be and I think we should have a conversation but I think it should be a national conversation first then followed by the international conversation. Because if you go into a negotiation not knowing what is important to you, not knowing what is critical, not knowing what's negotiable and what isn't, you're not necessarily going to come out with an outcome that is helpful or positive for the nation. I just want to point out that there has been growing internationally a particular divergence between the United States, the western democracies that stand with us and other democracies of the world and the vision that we have of the internet which is generally looked at as freedom, free speech, access to all information that's out there versus countries like Russia and China and Iran and some other more oppressive regimes in the world who look at that and say, "That's wrong, we've got to control this stuff. That people should only have access to certain types of information. We should be able to close off our part of the internet from the rest of the world," and they use it as a method of population control. You must remember that technology like this is amoral. You can use it for very, very positive things or you can use it for very, very negative things depending on the motivation of the people who are executing those policies. I realized that some people particularly when they get into the privacy versus security debate, many people are more concerned about protecting their information from our government than they are from anyone else. And I understand that, you know, I don't want big brother looking over my shoulder either even though I make a point of trying not to do anything that might interest them. But I got to tell you, if you don't have some degree of security, there's going to be a lot of people looking over your shoulder and a lot of them are not going to be from this country. So, we do need to come to that conclusion as a nation, you know, this is America, we're never going to work out all the details but we got to at least get in a ballpark before we step out into the international Fora and start trying to negotiate with the other folks out there who I can tell you when they come into the negotiations will have a very, very firm, very specific agendas that they are trying to push forward. So again, I'm not a, no, like never do this ever in the world, but we need to go a little slow and I would rather see us not achieve an international agreement if in achieving that agreement, it's going to circumscribe the freedoms and the benefits of the internet not just for our citizens but for many other citizens in the world. Thanks.
Thank you, Doctor Bucci. Doctor Steinbruner, if you'd like to respond to Doctor Bucci's opening comments?
Yeah, I'm not proposing that we negotiate about everything. We try to regulate comprehensively all internet activities. I say that we should focus on those things where we have very good reason to believe we have very, very strong mutual interest even if it is not well-articulate or realized. I think we do know already, we don't have to have a big debate that we have a huge interest in preventing deliberately distractive attacks on power grids, for example. And that--that I would be happy if negotiations focused exclusively on that or I would add other things to this category, critical infrastructure, financial clearing house transactions, in particular, to which the international economy is extremely vulnerable. So the proposal is that we don't try comprehensive regulation of everything the internet does but that we try to block off extremely dangerous destructive actions that are technically feasible and for which there is no single technical solution that we need.
Thank you, Doctor Steinbruner. Doctor Bucci, would you like to comment?
Can I sit here? Does that mess up the camera man? Okay. Okay, yes, we should participate in international discussions. I'm making a somewhat narrow distinction here between talking to allies, even talking to adversaries which is fine, it goes on all the time and in a formalized negotiating process that's out in the international arena. The reason I think we should participate in sort of more informal discussions of that nature is frankly, we do need to keep track of what others are trying to do to be able to see what these other block of nations that kind of has a different vision for the internet than we do and to protect our own reputation. If you don't come to the table, sometimes, you get kind of beat up by everybody else and the United States does have to guard against that. One of my main concerns with this is, well, in my heart of hearts, I agree with John about the importance of trying to keep these very destructive acts from becoming the norm. The problem I have with it is it's awfully darn hard to tell a difference between espionage probing and someone rummaging around inside your network just to steal your intellectual property or your data. You use exactly the same procedures to get in to do everything that you would use if you were going to go in there and do destruction. So it's very, very difficult, you know. I agree we need to exempt espionage because you're never going to control that, it's too ubiquitous, it's against the law anyway and everybody still does it. But the problem is, well, they're in there doing that espionage, how the heck are you going to tell a difference between that and when they leave something behind or at the time they get in there, they decide to, you know, metaphorically pull the trigger and do something destructive. Just getting the United States, China and Russia to say, "Okay, we won't do that," unfortunately in this world is not enough. They are the biggest players, they do have the most capability of any country out there. But I got tell you, you know, China can't control North Korea from doing nuclear tests. Russia doesn't seem to be inclined to try and keep Iran from supporting international terrorism, and the United States doesn't seem to be able to stop Israel when Israel thinks it's in their interest to do something. And, you know, these are three countries that are very closely related to those three big ones and there's a whole bunch of other folks out there that also have cyber capabilities. So, a laudable goal but I just don't think it's achievable and that's why I'm in no particular hurry to get out there and negotiate. I do want to say one thing real quickly. If you have not read John's paper, I don't agree with every single thing in it. It's really, really well-written and very comprehensive on this issue, so I would recommend it. He's probably too modest to say that, but it's really good.
Doctor Steinbruner, I wonder if you could respond to this notion of informal versus formal talks in discerning between internet freedom versus when you just got power grids security, things like that. What I'd like to do is try to get some sense of the texture of your different approaches to this issue with respect to those two dimensions, formal, informal allies, non-allies.
Well, what I would like to see happen is formal negotiations about a specific prohibition on destructive attacks on critical infrastructure targets. And so the agenda would be restricted to that. I would concede, however, as Steven is implying it, it may be very difficult to pull that off because the partners in particular and I kind of want to talk about the internet without also talking about political intrusion in their system and we're not likely to agree on that, we're certain not agree on that. Nor are they going to want to talk about cyber security without other security topics coming on to the agenda. So I would concede that it is not a trivial matter to get negotiations focused as narrowly as I've suggested and it may or may not be possible. All I'm saying is it's worth trying. Because in fact, the--I would say in reality, there is a mutual interest that we can play upon here. The three countries who are primarily involved in this, US, Russia, and China are preparing destructive attacks on critical infrastructure targets. I mean, we have to assume that that's going on. They haven't done it, however. And both--and all of them I think have some qualms about the wisdom of doing that. That seems to me would create a situation where we talk--have to talk right away before they have done it and try to establish the principle, thou shall not do what you could do. We are not going to be able to eliminate the possibility that, you know, the capacity is going to be there, we're not going to be able to negotiate that away. What we have to try to do is set a rule of behavior that says, this is out of balance, you don't do it even though you can. And you provide mutual reassurance that you're not attempting to do it and you collaborate to serve, enhance the protection of our respective systems in this regard. I will concede, however, that that's--you can't question whether it's practical to setup negotiations as specifically focused to that without dragging in other issues about which we are not doesn't need to agree any time soon and maybe it is not, all I'm saying is let's try.
Doctor Bucci, would you agree that he's narrowed out your point of disagreement here, which is that it's not practical to get them to talk about a specific--as narrowly focus the topic [inaudible]?
Yeah, it's going to be very, very difficult because again, I think, a lot of these countries have a set agenda, they've settled on it and, you know, they're--as soon as we say, "Okay, we want to sit down but we only want to talk about this, "they're going to come in and they might even say yes to that but when they get to the table, there's going to be a lot other issues that come up. You know, the thought struck me that, you know, cyber is difficult. It's kind of like the do use chemicals that, you now, have perfectly legitimate you know, civilian applications but they could also be used for something nefarious, building weapons, something like that. It's very, very difficult to monitor those things, you know, well, are they getting too much or they, you know, can we see that they're actually putting all those chemicals on their farm fields [inaudible] into their munitions plans. It's very, very difficult. Cyber, you can do a lot of good things with it but you can also turn around and do a lot of damage and cause a lot of mischief both to your own population and to the world at large. And it's really, really hard to monitor which one you're doing. And particularly, if you've already stipulated, we're going to let you do espionage or at least, you know, we're not trying to stop you but we're not going to go bomb you if you do that. When, you know, you don't know that it's destructive until it destroys something and that's tough, you know. It's not the same as we saw the launch and there's something coming over the polar cap so we now have, you know, an ability to respond. This is really stuff that frankly the humans are definitely the weak link in this chain because we can't respond fast enough to do some of these things. It's a scary field, and to be honest with you, all of you are the worst part of the security, me, too. It isn't the machines, it isn't even the software though we could get better with that. It's the humans and we just don't play the role that we should and it gives adversaries a way to come in and exploit it and they tend to take advantage of that.
Doctor Steinbruner, Doctor Bucci brought up a different argument here. He has pointed out that there is kind of a slippery slope between what we tacitly allowed espionage, these initial intrusions between that and to disable the power grid versus stealing, for example, IP. I think you'd agree. Could you address that one?
Well, it's certainly noted that there is European convention on cyber crime that declares as illegal particularly all the things you do either for espionage or for destruction, so it's already been declared illegal. And we are parties of--in some sense, in our convention, I think the Russians have, in some sense, exceeded to it as well. So already, there's the beginning of a discussion. And what I would emphasize is that Steven is correct that this looks like it's going to be difficult but that is not a reason to say our priority is impossible therefore don't try. And I do think that if we initiated a process trying to focus specifically on what I'll talk to is it's not clearly we couldn't pull this off. Yeah, we would have to fend off issues we don't want to talk about and that would be a problem. It's not clear to me there would be such an intractable problem that we couldn't come to terms on what we most have the greatest interest in and we--believe me, all of us do not want to see destructive attacks on power grids or financial clearing houses. Particularly, the ladder really does threaten the world economy if--And, so it looks like there are deep enough interest overcome, if you will, all the things he was rightly pointing to and at least we had to try to see if we could get agreement along those lines and you don't know until you've tried. The United States has a lot of leverage share if we initiate it because we are the big player after all. And that--and it's important for us even if we don't succeed to send the signal that this is the way we want the world to work, we do not want people preparing attacks or even conducting uncritical infrastructure. We want to set these norms because we need these norms and formal negotiation is a way of setting the norms even if you don't get final agreement.
Doctor Bucci, I wonder if you could address what some of the downsides might be to entering formal negotiations sooner rather than later. I would assume you see a certain sense of urgency in terms of preventing the attack from [inaudible], for example, or financial clearing house. But aside from the debate possibly dragging in other issues like internet freedom that we don't feel like addressing at the moment, what are the other downsides that you see, why shouldn't we do this?
The main reason is right now, we have more ability than anybody else and deliberately going into negotiations now and basically handing some of those abilities away, well, it sounds like a nice thing to do in the not so nice world of international politics, it's--I'm not sure if there's a lot to be gained from that. Frankly, I don't think some of these countries even if, you know, they sat down and sign an agreement that they would never do this stuff, that it's really going to stop them from doing it. So circumscribing our abilities and our options when we're sort of the wrestler are on top right now doesn't seem to make much sense to me.
Let me respond to that cause this really is the fundamental issue. We are better at it than other people. We're also more vulnerable.
And so we're more exposed and we're better. I think our political system is having difficulty accepting the principles that it is good idea to indeed, in some sense necessary to accept restraint in order to impose it. This is an instance where we have to do that and it is true that that accepting restraint, we will put greater restriction on ourselves in the sense that we have greater capability to attack than they do. I think it is overwhelmingly in our interest in this instance to do that and that's not the only instance. I mean, there are circumstances in which that principle, we do need to master that there are some things about which it's desirable to accept restraint on superior capability in order to impose restraint on inferior capability that nonetheless can cause us a lot of trouble.
Would you like to respond to that, Doctor Bucci, before we move on to audience questions?
I understand John's argument with that and while on an academic sense, I think it has a lot of merit. I'm not sure that in the real world, it plays out quite that way. You know, we have seen our negotiating skills with our previously with the Soviet Union and since then with the Russians and it hasn't always served us well. You know, we've had that desire, so, okay, we'll give a little bit more, we'll give a little bit more. And it doesn't necessarily work out to our advantage.
At this point, I'd like to move on to audience questions. I just got my first batch here and the first one is for Doctor Steinbruner. Even if Russia and China agree with us, the power grids shouldn't be attacked. How can we be assured that they are not appearing to do just that and likewise, how can we assure them?
Well, the declaration that you're not going to do it is the beginning. I mean, they will be preparing as well we be preparing to do it. That's not something we can prove since it can be done, they will prepare and we do, too, as to how we would do it. So the problem is how do you prevent people from doing what they could do and actually are prepared to do? The declaration helps, it sets the norm but I would go far beyond that. I would say let's establish procedures for a mutual protection to make it harder to do and the art here is to target this and not at ourselves particularly that a third party is terrorist, et cetera, who might do it to all of us. So let's establish mutual protection against this notion of third parties who might do this. To make it harder than it currently is, now, that would mean that we are constraining our own ability as they would be theirs but we're not going to be able to eliminate the potential for this attack. It's going to be there. What we have to do is regulate the behavior and the first step in regulating behavior is to establish a very clear norm of that.
Can I respond as well? Two points, one, just so everybody is clear, if you go any place else in America, we have a debate as to who the biggest threat is. Is it the Russians who are the most sophisticated, the Chinese who were sophisticated and there's a whole bunch of stuff going on or is it the Iranians who, you know, are not as sophisticated but have a lot more malice towards us. Everywhere else in the world, it isn't really a big debate. They all think we're the biggest threat because we have the most capability, and America can't think of ourselves that way but it's true.
How about the Israelis?
The Israelis are--well, I mean, some of their local competitors, we consider them a big threat but that has more to do with their kinetic capabilities than just their cyber capabilities. But the--we really need to realize that there's more folks out there in the cyber world than just the big countries. And it's really easy, you know, if you thought it was easy to do proxy warfare in a cold war using other countries and special operators and that sort of stuff, it's really easy to do it in a cyber world. I mean there is organized crime groups that get hired to do things and some of those have capabilities that rival a lot of nation states so it's--I just, again, I think it's a very laudable goal but I just don't think it's necessarily achievable.
Let me just point out that there's a benefit in that. We are all--three of the big players are subject to this, call it a terrorist threat or criminal threat. And it's useful to talk about mutual protection against that which is easier to talk about even though the effects of mutual protection against each other as well. There isn't any absolute solution here. The only question is can we do better than we're currently doing?
Just one last point on that. We've had one example of trying to do exactly what we're talking about here with the Russians. When the United States came up with the idea of missile defense, the more recent one not the ones when we're against the Soviet Union, and I was in the Pentagon and we brought the Russians in and we briefed them on everything we're planning on doing, where all the facilities we're going to go, we did everything but give them the technology. And we showed them, you know, was aimed at Iran and North Korea, it wasn't aimed at their stuff.
I would argue that that's a different circumstance and it would take us several weeks to work through all the details of why it's different.
Okay. Doctor Bucci, the next question is for you and it sort of takes us a little bit farther down the [inaudible] path than we've even been so far. Nations--nations always resort to their own interest in the end. [inaudible] policy for the US to engage its allies on this issue fully understanding that if a resulting treaty will be obligated if doing so is in the national interest?
Well, I mean it's, I'm not necessarily sure that's a useful discussion, I mean, nobody ever has to follow a treaty, there isn't an international policeman out there who's going to say, "Oh, wait a minute, you signed the paper and now you really can't do that." You know, if in the minds of the individual nation state, they decide that that's no longer in their interest, yeah, you're going to blow it off and you're going to do what you think is right. But to be honest with you, we kind of try not to do that. I mean we've done it often enough and so other people have done it just as much. but we really try not to sign up for something that we know ahead of time we're not going to follow. So I'm not sure if we have absolutely no intention of following it that were--it really is good form to sign up for it which is not what you try and do. Circumstances can change after the fact but going into it falsely, I don't think we prefer to do that.
Doctor Steinbruner, would you like to address this?
Just a comment. We live in a world that is going to need global norms and this is one of the areas of many of our needs and we're going to need to learn to how to do it. I agree. It's--you shouldn't--we shouldn't--we wouldn't sign up to something cynically and say, "Yeah, well, it doesn't mean anything." We're not--that's not the way we operate or should we operate it but we don't have to be completely reassured that everybody will adhere to our standards in order to try to set the norm, it's a process, and sometimes it take some time and, okay, people violate the norm, we catch some and we bring them up [inaudible] as a way of strengthening the norm.
Doctor Bucci, you've addressed this topic a fair amount in your writings and so I'm actually going to address this question first to Doctor Steinbruner, definitely to give you a chance to respond. Doctor Steinbruner, how should the US continue its engagement and relationship with China given the mounting evidence of Chinese government involvement in attacks of US networks?
That's the reason for doing it, we want to back them off, these attacks, and let me say that as--I think Steven pointed out, if you're in China, you hear about--a lot about US attacks. And if--yeah, there's not a fair court to sort things up but if there were, I think, and people were counting attacks, if you will, the US initiates most of them. China may be second, may be third. If China is third then Russia is the second, that's--So everybody is doing it, it is the answer. And the fact that the Chinese are doing it is not a reason not to talk to them about this, it's the reason for talking to them.
Just, you know, first of all, when we talked about this little before we started, you know, that the idea of every cyber incident is really not an attack.
You know, that we use that term very cavalierly mostly because we've haven't ever really defined it well. So, every newspaper person, it sounds much more dramatic that we had, you know, five million cyber attacks this week than we had you know, probes and scans and other things like that. Mostly, these things really are at worst espionage. They're in there trying to still data or spies trying to steal data from everybody else. We also steal from our friends and our friends steal from us, so that they're not just our adversaries. The--one of the biggest differences with China is that China, like other centralized governments, support their economic interest with that information. You know, we don't go and steal China's economic secrets mostly because they're ours that they took in and applied but also because we don't do that. We don't use our Intel community to, you know, to prop up our businesses. That's just not the model we use. Other countries and some of them our, you know, Western European countries do do that. And so there's a little difference and that I guess the breadth of the espionage that goes on, they have government assets that are--is that me? Maybe it is me. They have government assets that are doing industrial espionage. We don't have so much that ours is this national security espionage in the more normal sense of it. So, yeah, where you sit, it kind of depends on how you evaluate this and if you were sitting in Beijing, you'd probably look at this a little differently than we do.
Would you like to say anything?
It is true that there's a big structure of institutional difference here and that the US Intelligence Community does not pass on its information in the US Corporation systematically for their benefit, and the Chinese do. And, you know, that's just an inherent difference in the way the two societies work. I think it's fair to say that we certainly gather intelligence information about Chinese economic activities for which we don't pass it on the IBM but we use it, okay, and so they focus on that. Both of us are gathering the same kind of information, we use it differently.
One other point, a lot of people don't really understand, you know. We always--I kind of laugh at the Chinese sometimes with their, you know, it's like the lady doth protest too much kind of stuff, but, you know, that China is the most hacked country in the world by volume, by several orders in magnitude, mostly because they use a lot of pirated software and things that don't get updated. So they're actually very, very vulnerable and they're doing it to each other because they've got a very large decedent community who's trying to get away with stuff and trying to protect themselves. I mean, they do have a lot of stuff and there is some evidence that other countries like to route their stuff through China because they know once--whosever following it gets to China, they stop. And--because they're, you know, everybody thinks of China as the big hacker country. So I'm not defending China by any means. They're--I think they're pretty egregious violators, but, you know, again it doesn't make much sense to get all sorts of moral outrage over it because we all do it. You know, our country does it, all of our allies do it, all our adversaries do it that, you know, you don't have to sneak in to the Pentagon with a bag and empty out a file cabinet anymore. You just have to have some really talented people with a keyboard and hopefully someone at our end doesn't something stupid which is usually what it is. It's not somebody malicious on our end. It's somebody ill-informed, I guess, would be a kinder way to put it.
On a similar note, and I'll direct this to you first, Dr. Brucci, should the US government require non-governmental entities such as corporations to allow government laundering of their networks in order to detect and to prevent attacks on those networks?
I mean, there's a lot of things that our private sector could do and our public sectors should do together to add protection to our systems. You know, we--the private sector gets beaten up a lot because they say, you know, they don't share their information when they've been hacked, they don't give all the data to the government because in a lot of cases those companies consider, one, it ruins their reputation, two, it's proprietary information that once they hand it to the government, it becomes eligible for [inaudible], suits so that their competitors can get it. But on the same side, the government frankly is really, really poor at sharing information it has with the private sector. So whether having the government monitor their networks directly is going to help, they've been doing that in a defense industrial base, you know, company sign up and say, yeah, we'll let you look at all of our stuff.
Doctor Steinbruner, would you like to address this?
Okay, move on. Why since we are the most capable country in the cyber realm should we not negotiate as soon as possible from a position of strength rather than when another nations become more capable. So, I guess what's the [inaudible].
Let me just comment. There's a lot of talk here about sort of negotiation from strength and [inaudible] tactics as if the outcome were determined by relative strength. Most of the time that's not the case. Most of the time the outcomes or durable outcomes and negotiations are determined by reasonable equity because that's what gets people to adhere to it. And so usually and sort of bargaining tactics and sort of leverage and all that succeeds in either speeding up or slowing up the outcome that is determined in terms of reasonable equity even between countries that are a very different assets. So I don't imagine any agreement that is going to lock in sort of relative or sort of protect relative strength. An agreement that has any meaning and enduring power is going to have to establish basic principles that protect everybody and that's the only thing you can really enforce.
Dr. Bucci, why shouldn't we argue from a positional strength?
Because I've seen the United States over the years negotiate and when we go into something in a position of strength we usually end up giving away more. So we end up abrogating the position of strength to one of--at best parity and in some cases depending on how bad the negotiated settlement is, we end up weaker than the people we're negotiating with. I'm not a real fan of arms control negotiations so if you haven't figured that out yet, I'll be upfront with it. I just don't think it's necessarily the best solution and in this regular, you know, like nuclear weapons and conventional weapons are a lot easier to come to some sort of an agreement as you count the darn things other than all the ones everybody hides. A lot more readily than you can with doing this kind of behavior while doing that. I'm just not sure this is doable.
But just let me point out, I'm not proposing that we negotiate about relative strength and trying to adjust it up or down. What I'm proposing is that we regulate behavior whatever the relative strengths are. And let me suggest we better to learn to do that otherwise we're in very deep trouble.
Our next question, I'll also address it to you Doctor Steinburner. If an agreement on cyber attacks is reached but a signatory attacks anyway, how can the agreement's punitive clauses be enforced given the difficulty of definitive proof. In other words, plausible deniability is pervasive in its environment. How do you enforce it?
One of the things you would--first of all let me say it is important to establish as broadly normal as you can even if there are violations. I mean, we have laws against murder. People get killed all the time. We nonetheless think it's important to have those laws. But I would say that an addition to just setting a principle, we ought to establish the practice and as part of it of implementing it by neutral collaboration and enforcement and in particular in forensic investigation of possible incidents. It matters quite a lot whether the respective governments are contributing or collaborating in doing forensic analysis of intrusion or whether they're not. So, the agreement would set up the--yeah, all the situation in which, not that it's not impossible to violate and then maybe encounter violation but it's a lot more difficult to do it effectively without getting caught. So the point is just to make it more dangerous to whoever who's doing it. And, you know, with enough work you can get pretty close to identifying responsibility. It is, you know, it is admittedly difficult but it's not completely impossible.
And keep in mind in any international relations type of situation, you don't necessarily have to have a level of proof, you know, like you have to have an American courtroom to declare somebody guilty. It's always going to be an assessment and that there's interest that get factored in. There's timing that gets factored in and that, you know, if we had an agreement like this and the signatories decided that country A violated it even if they didn't have enough proof to get it through, you know, an international court or domestic court. If they felt it was in our interest to take action to punitive action against that country, they'd do it. American's tend to think very judicially at least as a population understanding the leaders about these things and I think we really, we got to have that proof beyond reasonable doubt and it'd be nice but we don't always have that before we take actions in the international realm.
And your ability--your ability to take action depends upon the strength of the norm. You have a strong norm, you don't need sort of a definitive proof in order to enforce it. If people really don't think that the action is justified, you can do a lot of things even if your proof is little squirrel.
And the proof will always, but at least, I think of--for at least for the foreseeable future, we'll continue to be squirreling in this realm 'cause it's really hard to get that definitive proof and while our forensics capabilities are getting better and better, the techniques people use to obfuscate the responsibility are also getting better and better. So it's another area in the cyber that's chasing itself.
So with respect to the capabilities, we have a question here regarding how you guys might best enhance their own capabilities. And so Doctor Steinbruner, I'll address this to you first but I'd like you both to comment. What will be the best means of integrating private sector into whatever US in the international agreements might be negotiated?
One of the things I think that we ought to fairly seriously explore is for--operating systems, infrastructure operating systems that carry heavy load for internatio--that we ought to try to establish basically trusted bank whereby sort of source codes are deposited and then you can check periodically against changes to those sort of scopes as a way of detecting intrusion. And there's a lot of complexity associated with that idea. You have to be very sure about the source code in the first place and you have to be very sure the repository is trustworthy. It's not itself a source of intrusion. But that would establish a higher standard and protection against those things that are really critical than we currently have. So that's one of the things I think that we are exporting. The other idea that people regularly have is, okay, disconnect from the internet those things that you don't want. That's easy to say and very difficult to do It's very, very hard to disconnect any current operating system from the internet absolutely because the internet is so efficient. But nonetheless you can think about the possibility of taking the power grid off the internet in some sense and how you would do that and could you do it and if these are productive discussions to have.
Yeah, the idea of taking things off the internet, everybody always has this vision that there's just some switch somewhere we just flip it in and--but, you know, if your adversary's intent is to lower your capability and take away from you all the advantages that you gained by using all these digital means, you kind of did his job for him when you say, "Oop, there's something coming. Quick, turn it all off." Okay, he didn't have to hit you, you turned it off yourself. I mean its--that's--I mean its--its an unfortunately naive view of how it works and it's also kind of productive. And I know you're not suggesting that so I'm not being critical of you. But it's just--Right now, we are really, really good at so many things in the world whether it's military, intelligence, commercial because we have bought into this digital world a 110 percent.
So, that's actually a bit the same to the next question which this particular audience member feels is core to this debate. And I'm going to address it first to Doctor Steinbruner. It seems there are two core questions. One, what should be impermissible even in war, i.e. Geneva concordance we have for POWs. And two, what should be impermissible outside on hostilities?
Outside of war, outside of our [inaudible].
Yeah. It's a very good question and the border line between war and not war is beginning to be an increasingly difficult question. What I would say is the reason for establishing sort of legal restraints is to stay out of war in the first place. And then I would concede that if you really get something that qualifies as war, fully declared and all that that most of these rules are in jeopardy including rules of war which are regularly violated.
But that doesn't mean that that doesn't undermine their utility, if you will, it just represents. So if you go--and but let me be a little be more specific. If we say thou shall not attack power grids, that's an act of war. It--and you--you establish that norm, it certainly discourages anybody from contemplating that because it defines that act as an act of war and it opens up all sorts of retribution as a consequence of that. So, my basic answer to the question is you set the norms in order to stay out of war. You would hope, of course, that they would contain any conflict that actually occurs but if we get war then, you know, there's a lot of destruction and this is part of it.
I mean, it's sort of the essence of deterrence. You have a declaratory policy, you tell people what is impermissible. In this case, I think that's a perfectly legitimate thing for a nation state to say, "You attack our power grid and we're at war." And don't matter, you know, we don't have to answer back with a cyber weapon system. We can come back at you with everything we've got. Now, there's new answers to that in our Department of Defense announced that a cyber attack would be considered an act of war. Now it neglected to define what a cyber attack was. I mean it was left deliberately vague so hopefully maybe you deter a few more things 'cause you don't necessarily want the bad guys say, "Okay, I know I can go all the way up to here and they won't come and bomb me. But if I go beyond that, I know their going to come after me." So you do leave some wiggle room there because that has an additional around the edge's deterrent turn effect. But you know it's--it comes down to them making an interest-based decision as well as to whether, you know, okay, we're going to see if they're really going to back this up because we think it's worth the risk to hammer them by doing that, And you hope it doesn't happen. I think, frankly, I think having a specific declaratory policy that you attack our energy grid in any way shape or form that we'll consider an act of war makes more sense to me than having a negotiation.
Well, there's a corollary to that is that we will not do it to you either if we consider it an act of war.
We're ruling that out of bounce. And, you know, that--that's way of--the point is to set the norm. How you set the norm, you can debate about how to set the norm. But it would be desirable to have sort of a legally and active agreement. This is the norm.
Thank you, gentlemen. We reached the end of our question and answer session. But we'd like to give each of you five minutes to give some closing remarks to sum up your ideas and leave us with a final question. So Dr. Steinbruner, we'd like to start with you. And you don't have to get up the podium.
Let me just say that there are deep issues were talk--I mean the cyber issue connects into a lot of other things as well. And cannot really in the end be separated from fundamental security relationships and all the interests associated with that. So part of what is behind what I'm saying is that we're living in world that is going to require more robust regulation, if you will, of some things than it currently has. And it is going to require sort of legally find security relationships among the major players in order to cope with mutual threats. Coming down the line in case you haven't noticed is the looming issue of global warming which although is controversial here is not going to be controversial forever. This is a very, very serious mutual threat. And that's going to change the security relationships of all countries over a two or three-decade-year period. And they're going to be driven into very intricate collaboration. And this is just one of the features of that. So what I'm saying here is that the recommendation of just talking about this is rooted in a larger situation in which we're going to have to learn to regulate our security relationships with countries that we have historically seen or like to see as enemies for mutual protection because we have overwhelming mutual interest looming here. And we have to learn how to handle it.
I just want to emphasize cyber threats are real, all right? It isn't hype, it isn't just, you know, defense contractors around the Northern Virginia area trying to get extra contracts from the government. There are real honest to God threats out there from nation states, from non-state actors, from criminal organizations, even, you know, they--everybody always laughs at the hacker, you know. It's that fat guy sitting in his mother's basement typing on his computer. Those guys still exist and they're frankly much more capable today than they used to be because you can just go online and buy stuff, I mean I could become a hacker and I'm not a tech guy. If I just went online to some gray sites and bought some tools. So the threats are real. The sky is not falling, however, all right? That, you know, the republic is not at risk today of collapsing under the way that the cyber attacks we're facing. It--it's--but what's happening does affect all of us. If you are like me and have either not much hair or the hair has turned to different color, you may take advantage of this and say, "Look, you know, it's not my thing. I'm just going to do what I do. I know other people are going to take care of it", that's the wrong attitude. You have to understand this problem. You have to get engaged with it. If you think that all the young people are going to take care of it for you, you're dreaming. The young people are very capable at using all these stuff and they have no culture of security, whatsoever. It's not a criticism, it's just a fact that's not important to them. So they don't think about the threats in the same way someone with that greater or less hair does it. So, you've got to have the mindsets of both together working to try and address this. If you don't understand the cyber issues that are out there, get the knowledge, dig in. The government has a wonderful program that it's close to put out awareness education and training, and I spoke with one of these senior people at DHS and I said, "Well, how's that going?"
Thank you both very much for coming here to be with us.
Mercifully, he did not do a poll.
That's right, he forgot to do that.
I'd like to thank our speakers again, Doctors Bucci and Steinbruner for coming here and engaging a thoughtful engaging discussion. I know I learned a lot. I think that's really widespread here. I'd like to remind everyone as they head out to get their M-cards if they have the iClickers and also I'd like to take one final poll, and if I can figure out how to do that. Oops, here we go. Technology, right? Okay, so if anyone wants to try voting out, there we go. Okay, so our resolution is here, so just so you can read it.
[ Pause ]
And looks like we don't have anyone undecided, so, that's good.
Oop, never mind.
It's both skewing [inaudible].
Well, once again I'd like to thank our speakers. Thank you very much. [applause] And I'd like to invite everyone to our last debate in the Ford Policy Union Series. It will be on March 26th on the topic of international drug treaties. And I thank you all for coming.