Remarks as Prepared

Good morning. I’d like to begin by expressing my gratitude to those who made today’s event possible. Thank you to the Organization of American States for inviting me to join you. OAS plays a critical role in bringing together leaders across the Western Hemisphere and building bridges between the Caribbean and its regional partners. 

I’m so pleased to be here in the Bahamas—a place that’s very close to my heart. I’ve lived in the United States for many years, but I will always consider these islands to be an integral part of who I am. 

My family’s story in the Bahamas began in 1815, when one of my ancestors was rescued from a slave ship that sunk nearby. He built a home here, and for over two centuries my family has been a part of this community. I spent much of my childhood here, visiting relatives and enjoying the best parts of Bahamian culture.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed an incredible transformation take place on the islands and across the Western hemisphere. Through hard work, ingenuity, and no small amount of boldness, we have embraced and accelerated stunning technological advancements that have fueled economic growth and human prosperity throughout the region. In the coming decade, I can envision even more digitally-enabled transformation, and I believe that everyone should reap its benefits. That’s the mission of my office in the White House: to ensure that all communities thrive and prosper in a digitally-enabled future.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how we accomplish that goal.  How do we achieve economic prosperity through technological transformation? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we do so in a way that is inclusive and equitable?

In the United States, we believe that the road to shared economic prosperity runs through investments in our communities and our people. The Biden-Harris Administration has catalyzed generational investments across America through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.  These investments set us on a path to a more equitable economy, a clean energy transition, a stronger democracy, and a more competitive workforce. 

But we’re cyber people.  And we know that all of these lofty ambitions rely upon technological foundations.  I’m committed to making sure that we work together—across government, industry, and people around the world—to strengthen those cyber foundations at the outset. 

The President’s strategic vision for cyberspace is one where defensibility, resilience, and a stalwart commitment to our values will enable our boldest and most impactful ambitions.

We want to build a world where defenders, not attackers, have all of the advantages. We can develop technical systems that are secure by design, where security is intrinsically baked in, not tacked on as an afterthought. And we can make our digital world resilient, so that even if our defenses fail, we are able to avert catastrophe and quickly recover, without lasting systemic effects. 

In everything we do, our values must shape our choices. We cannot pretend that technology is separate from people—its designers, its users, and the things we all care about.  As we’ve seen, technology can propel unimaginable progress, from spreading access to information and education in rural corners of the globe, to delivering medical miracles through lifesaving treatments.  But technology can also be abused by designers and users who use it to manipulate, oppress, or disinform communities, sowing doubt and fear in democratic systems.

Our goals are ambitious, and achieving them will require us to make some fundamental changes in how we do things.  We need to start by rethinking which people, which companies, and which governments we ask to keep us all safe in cyberspace.  Those that are best positioned and most well-resourced to make cyberspace a safer place should be doing just that. 

Cyberspace is, at its core, borderless and globally interconnected, and so I think about cybersecurity, resilience, and values in a global context.  We must defend and defend together.  Cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure can threaten our national security, public safety, and economic prosperity.  This infrastructure underpins the energy, water, and transportation systems that serve our homes, schools, workplaces, and hospitals. And it enables commerce, communications, and travel between countries throughout this hemisphere. In this environment, the United States is committed to work with our allies and partners around the world to take on ransomware and other threats to our critical infrastructure.  

Regional coalitions are the foundation of our efforts—and in the Western Hemisphere we recognize the important role that the OAS, especially the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, plays in buttressing cybersecurity training, capacity, and national cyber strategies and policy development in our region. I commend CICTE for their significant investments and ongoing efforts.

We’re also pursuing opportunities to build cyber capacity throughout the region. When we can help one country become more secure, we all become more secure. We are committed to providing allies, partners, and those in need with timely, impactful support in times of crisis.  And we’re investing in long-term capacity-building programs to build institutions and strengthen our workforces.  

Last year, when Costa Rica was hit by a particularly destructive ransomware attacks, the Administration rushed to provide assistance funds to address the imminent threat and support Costa Rican efforts to build a national cybersecurity operations center.  This is the kind of assistance we hope to scale up and replicate throughout the region.  When our friends call for support, we will be prepared to answer.

But my vision for cyberspace is about more than just preparing for and responding to crises.  It’s not enough to manage the threats of today.  We have to admit that we can never move fast enough in this game of whack-a-mole.  Instead, we need to make it so that when public and private sector entities face trade-offs between easy but temporary fixes and harder solutions that will stand the test of time, they have the incentives they need to consistently choose the latter.

We need to be investing in our future, making it more inherently defensible and resilient, and better able to support our goals. Goals like rapid, high-bandwidth communications that enable collaboration, commerce, and cultural exchange.  Goals like a power grid capable of distributing renewable energy across vast distances with acute precision. And goals like an Internet that strengthens democracy around the globe.  While I know how often our attention as national leaders is drawn to the crisis of the day or short-term solutions, that mentality will not help future generations.  

For example, we are making choices today that will determine the security and trustworthiness of our technology supply chains for years to come.  We are focusing on building secure and resilient global supply chains for information communications technology and operational technology products and services. We know the importance of ensuring that trusted vendors are baked in at the forefront of our critical supply chains and 5G and next-gen wireless networks. When we make that sovereign decision for our own networks, we know governance matters. Vendors from signatories to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime provide some safeguards for our citizens and infrastructure.

But this secure, resilient future is about more than just hardware. We are also committed to a values-driven, norms-based approach to upholding responsible state behavior in cyberspace.  And we will continue advancing accountability when states fail to live up to their commitments.

Ultimately this all comes down to people.  A central pillar of our efforts to build that shared prosperous future will be strengthening our cyber education system and growing our national cyber workforce.  No amount of technical fixes will matter if we don’t have the trained professionals to implement them.  And cybersecurity jobs are fundamentally good jobs—we know the demand is out there; it’s on all of us to ensure we have adequate supply.  This is an area where there is tremendous innovation happening throughout the world.  We know we have much to learn from our hemispheric partners and look forward to working together to tackle this challenge as a global community. 

That’s what I really want to get across today—we’re all in this together.  And our digital ecosystem can be one that benefits everyone, no matter where you live or what technical chops you have.  Big companies and national governments will lead the way, but we should all have a say in what the next phase of our digital world looks like.

My team has learned a tremendous amount from innovative partners throughout the region who are pioneering new approaches to policy.  We want to learn from your successes and hear your unique perspectives.  We will continue to seek opportunities to share ideas and work together to achieve a better digital future for all of us. 

In closing, thank you again for the opportunity to speak today. I’m thrilled to be here in the Bahamas discussing the importance of cybersecurity in the Western hemisphere. I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working together to advance a digital future that is defensible, resilient, and aligned with our values. 

Thank you. 

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