Tom Davis says he doesn't want cyber-coordinator job

Former Va. congressman added "you never say never"

 Tom Davis, former congressman from Virginia and now director of government affairs for Deloitte, said today that he doesn't want the  White House cybersecurity coordinator job. However, Davis who has been reported to be a front runner for the position, added “you never say never.”

Davis didn’t seek re-election last year for a House seat that he had held since being elected in 1994, but he hasn’t closed the door on coming back to work for government. However, he said today that at this point he isn’t eyeing a return to public service.

“The answer is I’m not seeking it at this point,” Davis said during a panel discussion about what the new “cyber czar” would likely face in his or her first 100 days on the job. The event was hosted by Harris Corp. and held at the National Press Club in Washington.

Davis it would be a challenge for the new coordinator to get all federal agencies on the same page, but it was possible with presidential support. However, Davis said the big issue was how much authority the new coordinator will have.

“For this job to work you’d better get some understandings up front, if you’re the cyber czar and you want to have any clout in this,” Davis said. “At this point it’s unclear to me what the position would even entail, how much authority you would have.”

During a May 29 speech on cybersecurity policy, Obama said he would “personally select” the cybersecurity coordinator who would report to his top national security and economic advisers. The nature of the position has led to speculation about whether the new coordinator would have sufficient clout, as well as what type of person would be qualified or want the position.

During his time in Congress Davis was a leader on issues such as acquisition reform, information technology security and electronic government. He sponsored key IT-related legislation such as the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of 2002.

Davis said during the panel discussion that new legislation was going to be needed to deal with the cybersecurity problem. However, he said it would very difficult to sort out the competing committees that would claim jurisdiction over cybersecurity-related issues.

“I’m afraid given the complexities of where we are today you’re going to have a number of committees that are going to want a piece of this legislation,” he said. He said congressional committees that oversee government reform, commerce, science, armed services, homeland security, intelligence, appropriations, financial services and judiciary issues would all want a role in new cybersecurity legislation.

Davis said the Obama administration had a lot of leeway with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to start enforcing the requirements of FISMA. Davis said he thought the law did improve the situation, but also said it was time “to take the next step.”

“Part of the difficulty with FISMA is you put these new reporting requirements on, but there was no teeth to it and there was no additional funding for it,” Davis said. “Even without a cyber czar I think there is a lot that could be done through OMB that has not been done in the past on this.”

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 30, 2009 mikeM

The czar will never have enough influence. The Department of homeland Security is composed of 22 different Agencies WHICH REPORT TO 88 DIFFERENT CONGRESSIONAL SUBCOMMITTEES. See if you can imagine _why_ the Federal agencies are on different pages today before you think some new position that doesn't report to Congress can fix the situation.

Thu, Jun 25, 2009

Obama needs another CZAR? how many is that now? 16 He wants a republican running the department who spies on what Americans are writing and doing on line

Wed, Jun 24, 2009 HC DC metro area

Looks like the talk is to consider someone with political talking experience vs a more technically knowledgable person in the cyber security area. If Davis is truly being considered, could this be a move to include more republicans?

Wed, Jun 24, 2009 tuomoks Chicago

Seem to me that he is just the right person for that position! Not a word (or a promise) to fix all the problems in the world with no cost or any other (empty) political promises! And I agree with Tom Davis, if I have learned anything in 40 years on security, it is not possible without proper authority. With authority comes responsibility and he also seems to understand that very well based on his history and speeches.

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