Introducing Your New Cybersecurity Czar

Howard Schmidt brings industry experience, Bush administration credentials to a job that's more important than you think

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The White House is set to announce Howard Schmidt as the nation's point man on cybersecurity, overseeing both the military and civilian worlds. Schmidt, who comes at the recommendation of National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, has worked in the technology industry as well as in the George W. Bush administration, where he was also a cybersecurity official. In his new post, Schmidt will join the national security council. Cybersecurity watchers insist that both Schmidt's job and the threat he will fight are more important than most people appreciate. If they're correct, Schmidt will have to work to get what he needs.

  • Schmidt's Challenge Ahead The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains why "Cyber power and cyber threats are among the most worrisome -- and least discussed -- threats to security, Obama administration officials believe." He writes, "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. Business groups are skeptical of legislation to codify the government's power to shut down threatened computer networks and to give them the legal authority to monitor the private "" domain for threats."
  • Why It Took So Long The New York Times's John Markoff traces the months-long delay in Schmidt's appointment. "The administration's decision to appoint Mr. Schmidt was slowed by a tug of war among political, military, intelligence and business interests, said people with direct knowledge of the selection process. Industry officials, for example, have expressed concern that new regulations would dampen innovation." He says White House officials cite "a range of initiatives now under way at various agencies to improve cybersecurity. In November the White House met with a Russian delegation of cybersecurity officials in an effort to build cooperation on international law enforcement issues."
  • Balancing Gov't And Industry Associated Press reporter Lolita Baldor notes the political challenge. "Corporate computer security leaders have openly expressed frustration with the White House as movement on the job post stalled and questioned the administration's claims that the issue is a priority. At the same time, cyber experts and potential job candidates have complained that the position -- which will report to both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council -- lacks the budgetary and policy making authority needed to be successful."
  • Will Schmidt Have Access? TechPresident's Nancy Scola points out that Schmidt "has experience working both in government and the private sector, with stints at places like the Commerce Department, eBay, the FBI, Microsoft, and the Air Force under his belt, and while the considerable challenges facing the Obama Administration point person on cybersecurity fall outside our purview here, it's worth noting that what watchers are looking for are signs indicating how much institutional authority and access to the President that Schmidt will have from his post on the National Security Council. Cybersecurity is one aspect of our modern technological landscape where it matters a great deal whether politicians truly appreciate the current state of play."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.