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Squabbles Over New Federal Office for Cybersecurity

In May 2022, the Swiss government decided to turn the National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC) into a federal office for cybersecurity. This upgrade was not a surprise, but was anticipated by a debate about how this new federal office should be structured and which department it should belong to. Given those questions, SML lecturer Dominique Ursprung published an article in the Military Science Journal of the Swiss Armed Forces arguing, that when creating such a new organisational unit, it is not form that matters but how well it can achieve its purpose.

E-Government Benchmark EU 2021

The most advanced digital governments in Europe are Malta, Estonia, Denmark, and Finland. Switzerland is ranked 30th. Source: EU EGovernment benchmark 2021

Ursprung and his co-author Nicolas Zahn summarise the experience of various European countries that shows that the decisive success factor of new units in charge of digital tranformation and cybersecurity is the ability to implement those goals in the country’s public administration. Yet, in Switzerland, the current debate was firstly about whether a state secretariat or a federal office for cybersecurity is needed and more recently about the question to which ministry the new federal office for cybersecurity should belong. Ursprung and Zahn argue that this debate distracts from more important questions, such as what resources, competencies, and leverage the new authority will need to work with cantons, municipalities, and the private sector to bring about the country’s digital transformation.

Incentives for subnational actors, such as cantons and communes, deserve much more attention

Cover_Stratos_1-22This text is based, among other things, on interviews conducted with Estonian government officials. The aim was to identify the lessons learned by Estonia and what exactly Switzerland can learn from them. Estonia is one of the world’s leading nations in digital government and cybersecurity and has achieved a level that Switzerland will reach in about 10 years at best. The analysis also shows that incentives for subnational actors, such as cantons and communes, deserve much more attention to understand how to achieve better results in the domain of cybersecurity.

The full article, entitled “Schattengefecht um Schweizer Digitaldepartement: Entscheidend ist nicht die Form, sondern die Umsetzungskapazität” (PDF) has been published in German in the latest issue of the Military Science Journal of the Swiss Armed Forces: Stratos (1-22).


Dominique Ursprung, Head of Program WBK Diplomacy in the Digital Age, International Management Institute