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Cybersecurity coordinator faces political gauntlet

Howard Schmidt faced a difficult path to his new job as President Obama’s choice for national cybersecurity coordinator, but now he must tread more carefully than ever, according to news reports and blogs across the Internet.

An administration official speaking on background told CSOonline that Obama took his time in making his pick because he “wanted to ensure that the cybersecurity coordinator had the right mix of public- and private-sector experience.” As it turns out, CSOonline had recently talked to Schmidt about his predictions for IT security in 2010.

But Schmidt, though one of the most prominent candidates for the job in recent months, “was not necessarily the White House's first choice,” according to Information Week. “Several others turned down the job, and former assistant secretary of Defense Frank Kramer was seen as a recent front-runner.”

The Washington Post reports that the search for the cybersecurity coordinator was slowed by “internal tension over how much authority [the cybersecurity coordinator] would have and to whom the official would report.” According to the Post, White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers argued that the coordinator should report to him, but Schmidt in fact will report to deputy national security adviser John O. Brennan.

The appointment still leaves the White House with the challenge of how to “balance cybersecurity decisions between military and civilian organizations,” states the New York Times, noting the “running turf wars” among the Defense Department, the National Security Agency and the Homeland Security Department.

The Politics blog at the Atlantic also highlights the minefield Schmidt must manage, with added pressure from Congress the business community. “Over the next several years, the administration and Congress want to build a cyber security culture that requires the acquiescence of American industry to a new balance between privacy, profit and the transparency and security of their communication infrastructure.”

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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