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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