Obama picks cybersecurity coordinator

Howard Schmidt tapped as cybersecurity chief

The Obama adminstration announced today that Howard Schmidt is the president's choice to be his cybersecurity coordinator.

Since President Barack Obama announced the creation of the position in May, speculation has been rampant over whom the president would tap for the role. In the interim, some senior lawmakers and industry groups have expressed concern over the delay and urged the president to make the appointment quickly. Meanwhile, some observers have questioned whether the official will have enough power.

"Howard will have regular access to the president and serve as a key member of his National Security Staff," John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said in a message posted today on the White House's blog. "He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the nation secure and prosperous."

The blog posting also includes a video message from Schmidt.

Schmidt has experience in senior computer security positions in the public and private sectors, a qualification that the trade association TechAmerica has said the coordinator should have.

In the past, Schmidt served as a top cybersecurity adviser in the Bush White House and worked with federal and local law enforcement and the Defense Department. Schmidt has also served as chief information security officer at eBay, chief security officer Microsoft, and most recently as president and CEO of the Information Security Forum, a nonprofit consortium of 300 corporations and public-sector  groups.

The appointment of a cybersecurity coordinator is a cornerstone the approach Obama laid out in a speech May 29 about securing the country’s digital infrastructure. Obama said that the coordinator will lead a new White House cybersecurity office that will:

  • Orchestrate and integrate all cybersecurity policies for the government.
  • Work closely with the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Coordinate response in the event of major cyber incident or attack.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Feb 9, 2010 Joe P. Gaithersburg, MD

Having a Cybersecurity Coordinator is an important/good move, but it largely misses the biggere issue. "Information" as a pillar of national power is a lot bigger than cybersecurity. The DoD has learned a great deal about information operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the State Department still doesn't get it. Our Board of Broadcasting Governors is woefully under-resourced and ineffective. The name "State" Department underlies the challenge of a foreign policy that has not caught up with the "age of affinity group marketing" and the realization that conducting all of our foreign policy via "states" as opposed to affinity groups is a lost cause.

We need to start managing information as a pillar of power.

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 Dr. John Hudson Omaha, NE

It will be interesting to see how much actual authority he is given to overcome the legal and perceived collaboration issues between the private sector and government entities in order to form a mutually beneficial alliance.

The alliance MUST be equally distributed as well. The effort cannot exclude small business as this alienates a large portion of the business community and any loophole of vulnerability threatens the whole economic base.
Respectfully -

Tue, Dec 22, 2009 Jim Tallahassee

Great choice . . . I think, overall he'd of been my #2. I always liked Richard Clarke's candor, he'd of been #1, and Harry Raduege would have been my #3. It takes someone of their caliber and background to be able to draw attention to the details of Cyber Security.

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