Home No Cyber Czar for You, America: Obama Fails to Appoint InfoSec Head

No Cyber Czar for You, America: Obama Fails to Appoint InfoSec Head

In a recent interview, Homeland Security deputy undersecretary Philip Reitinger commented on President Obama’s as-yet unfulfilled promise to appoint a senior White House cybersecurity advisor.

Although the nation has an acting cybersecurity coordinator in former FBI cyber staffer Chris Painter, no permanent appointee has been named in the six months since the President announced his commitment to create and fill this position. Can the White House appropriately and competently address our national needs without a permanent cybersecurity head? In light of our assessment of America’s vulnerability to cyber attacks just six months ago, Reitinger’s reaction is surprising.

Reitinger, a former Microsoft strategist and current director of the National Cybersecurity Center, believes that White House cybersecurity processes at the White House are running smoothly.

“It is absolutely essential that there be strong, White House involvement in cybersecurity, and there is strong, White House involvement in cybersecurity,” he said. He further vouched for the acting coordinator, saying, “The acting cybersecurity coordinator at the White House, Chris Painter, is a bona fide expert in this field, and has a great team of people working for him.”

Still, although Reitinger says things are going well now and that short-term issues are being addressed, how much control does the acting coordinator have to over long-term, national IT concerns – especially considering the problematic and essentially political nature of cybersecurity leadership in Washington? Reitinger told Information Week several months ago that he expected the coordinator position to be a fulcrum for cybersecurity at the national level and within the White House. Have his priorities shifted enough that he feels a temporary position in one administration is truly adequate to address the country’s needs?

And what of the President’s assurance that national cybersecurity would be prioritized with this new position? We’ve been reporting since April on calls for the President to create a National Office of Cyberspace, and those requests from all corners – including congressional types and think tanks – have not satisfactorily been met.

To quoteInformation Security editor Michael Mimoso, “All I want for Christmas is a cybersecurity coordinator.”

Is President Obama right to ease up on his commitment to national cybersecurity, and is America sufficiently protected by a temporary cybersecurity coordinator, after all? Or are the cyberwonks justified in their disappointment and frustration? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

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