2017 Fellow Reflections: Maurice Turner

I expected to leverage my local government and technology experiences, and learn a great deal about the challenges of considering opposing viewpoints while building coalitions to pass legislation. I had no idea just how much I would learn during this non-traditional start to the 115th Congress.

Each day, week, and month built upon the last one. I was able to quickly get up to speed to meaningfully contribute in the following ways: staffed two cybersecurity hearings; lead staff on S. 1867 FITARA Enhancement Act; drafted two Committee letters; provided direct support on S.1157 PATCH Act, S.1281 Hack DHS Act, S.1691 IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act, CyberNextDC Speech, Identifying Media Content for CVE, Kaspersky Lab Oversight, DJI Data Collection Oversight, HHS HCCIC Oversight, E-Government Act Reauthorization. All of these accomplishments were made possible by working with a great team of professional staff, agency detailees, and interns in HSGAC and throughout the Senate.

It almost goes without saying that there is so much more work for Congress in the growing area of cybersecurity. Several major malware attacks and data breach reports provided the perfect opportunity for me to showcase the value of having technical expertise available on-staff. I worked with staff to track incident developments, understand the scope of the impacts, and provide recommendations on how Congress can provide oversight on Federal government response working with the private sector. Dozens of Committees in the House and Senate have some components of cybersecurity within their jurisdiction. The need for staff technologists is high and, in my opinion, continues to grow.

Reflecting on my experiences, I certainly had more than my fair share of highs and very few lows. My lowlight is a classic example of the opaque and sometimes convoluted legislative process. I spent days waiting with no information as a bill I worked on was stuck in cloakroom limbo. I learned that sometimes there is literally nothing that you can do even when you are responsible for the outcome. All that was left was patience until the bill cleared and was signed into law.

The highlight of my accomplishments was drafting a bipartisan Committee letter. Beyond the issue itself, I was proud of the letter as a symbol that staff and members from opposing parties can find ways to work together to have a positive impact on the American people.

Cybersecurity remains a pre-partisan issue where there is still opportunity for the majority and minority parties to work together more naturally without some of the impediments of entrenched bias and conflict. The collegial atmosphere that I experienced everyday on the Hill is what will leave the most lasting impression of my time as a Fellow. Working with external stakeholders, agency representatives, and Congressional staff to address problems of such scale and magnitude was rewarding. I look forward to continuing that work at the Center for Democracy & Technology where I will focus on election security.