The DorobekInsider reader: Howard Schmidt as cybersecurity coordinator

Wednesday - 12/23/2009, 6:59am EST

Somehow it feels that the White House it clearing off its desk before the end of the year. What else would explain Tuesday’s announcement that Howard Schmidt would be the Obama administration’s cybersecurity coordinator — just shy of seven months after the creation of the post was originally announced.

The announcement is curious because Schmidt was one of the first names that was tossed around — and in so many ways, he seems to have the skills necessary for this still-being-defined post.

But this strikes me as an important — and complex — job. So, as we often do around these kinds of big events, I like to pull together resources, analysis and opinions around key topics. (Previous DorobekInsider readers: Obama cyber-security policy review, the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System pay-for-performance reports and Veterans Day.)

Obama-Schmidt

President Obama meets with cyber-coordinator Howard Schmidt

Right at the top, I should note that the DorobekInsider reader: Obama cyber-security policy review has links to the administration’s policy review and much more.

From the White House itself:

* WhiteHouse blog: Introducing the New Cybersecurity Coordinator, which includes a short video with Howard Schmidt.

* To see how Schmidt’s thinking has evolved, read the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, which he helped craft before he left the Bush administration. Find the report from DHS here.

Federal News Radio 1500 AM and FederalNewsRadio.com coverage

Federal News Radio 1500 AM has has team coverage of the announcement.

* On Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris… we spoke with Karen Evans, former administrator of e-government and information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, and Randy Sabett, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, where he is a member of the Internet, Communications & Data Protection Practice. Sabett served on the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, which had recommended the creation of the cyber-coordinator post.

Evans:

Now, think about it. He was doing cybersecurity in Microsoft when it wasn’t cool. So, for him to be able to do that — that experience there within a company as big as that company is and the focus that they had, which was at that point pretty consumer-oriented, [but] has now switched to a very comprehensive type of cybersecurity strategy going forward with solutions for consumers, as well as other folks — that’s due to Howard’s insight and education. That experience will really help when he’s talking with private industry people and what their part is in this.

Sabett:

The difference between the two relates to the areas where the frustration has been felt in the past. The so-called cyber czars — many of them, including Howard — have expressed the idea that they had all of the responsibility but they didn’t have the authority. I think the difference here is the emphasis on coordination, which is a recognition that that there are many pockets, both within the government and within the private sector, of excellence — of people doing really good things in the cybersecurity area. Those don’t need to be shaken up. At the same time, they do need to be coordinated and . . . having this position be the Executive Office of the President is, I think, a significant difference from where the so-called cyber czar positions have been in the past.

You can hear and read parts of those interviews here.

* Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller culled reaction from industry, while Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas got the reaction from Capitol Hill — Cacas notes that one of the more interesting comments came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Ranking minority member of the Homeland Security Committee, Senator Susan Collins from Maine, was even more blunt, releasing a statement outlining her “disappointment at the Administration’s decision to add yet another czar at the White House.” Collins wants Schmidt’s new job elevated to one that would be subject to Senate confirmation.

Read and hear Cacas’s full story here.

* Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller is hearing Sameer Bhalotra, a staff member from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is a leading candidate to be the deputy cyber coordinator. Miller also spoke to Melissa Hathaway, the former senior director for cyberspace for the National Security Council under President Obama and now president of Hathaway Global Strategies: