December 22, 2009

Obama To Announce Appointment Of Cyber-Security Czar

The Obama administration has just called on a former Bush appointee to "Ëœsuit up' and take charge of a federal project to improve the nation's computer networks and get the government in sync with the private firms that own and operate the vast majority of them.

The former cyber security chief under Bush Jr., Howard A. Schmidt "” also a former eBay and Microsoft bigwig "” has recently accepted the none-too-coveted post as coordinator of the government's cyber security division, according to White House insiders.

President Obama is expected to publicly announce the appointment some time Tuesday.

An Obama official speaking on condition of anonymity said that Obama had been more personally involved in the selection process than with most other similar appointments. In February, little more than a month after taking office, President Obama made a public commitment to elevate the priority of the country's cyber security.

After ordering a broad administrative review of cyber security policy earlier this year, Obama vowed to find a competent cyber coordinator to manage what he called on of the "most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation."

According to the same official, Schmidt will enjoy frequent and direct access to the President's ear on all cyber matters.

The White House has taken flak from several angles, as some have criticized the administration's much delayed appointment while others maintain that the position will lack the budgetary and political autonomy needed to make it truly effective.  Schmidt will be required to report to the National Security Council and work in close cooperation with the National Economic Council.

As Schmidt's position as president and CEO of the Information Security Forum (ISF) would seem to indicate, the Obama administration is just as concerned with economic and business interests as with matters of national security. The ISF is a nonprofit multinational conglomerate charged with carrying out research on information security.

In a political climate where national security has become a key issue and increasingly sophisticated international hackers make millions of attempts a day to crack open government information systems, Schmidt's position has taken on a prominence that would have been scarcely imaginable just a decade or two ago.

As a respected veteran expert in the field of cyber security and a man who is known for his business and political savvy, Schmidt is considered by many to be the best possible choice for the position.

"I think he would be able to get people to compromise and move things forward," Roger Thornton, chief technology officer for Fortify Software, told the Associated Press.

In addition to his work in the private sector, Schmidt 40-year career also includes decades of government work at the municipal, state and federal level, including vice chairman President George W. Bush's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board as well as advisor to the FBI and National Drug Intelligence Center.


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