Only in Washington, DC could a lack of technological know-how be a positive thing. In a city where people prefer to vote for charismatic politicians over intellectuals, White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel sees his lack of expertise as a selling point.
“Being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction,” he told Gov Info Security. “You can get enamored with the very detailed aspects of some of the technical solutions. And, particularly here at the White House … the real issue is to look at the broad, strategic picture and the impact that technology will have.”
Daniel, who describes himself as “not a coder” is an unlikely appointed official to oversee the White House’s national cybersecurity strategy and policy. Most senior policy makers, as Vox observes, have advanced degrees in the fields they operate in. The surgeon general is a medical doctor, the attorney general has a law degree, and the head of the federal reserve has a degree in economics. And honestly, would we trust them as much if they didn’t?
In his own words, Daniel has a degree in public policy, but says he has little experience in programming or protecting computer networks from attacks. We can trust him to make policy, but probably not as the one in charge during a national cybersecurity emergency.
The situation echoes that of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinator Michael D. Brown. It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina that it came out that Brown had inadequate experience in disaster management and was forced to resign after his botched handling of the situation.
It would take a cybersecurity equivalent of Hurricane Katrina to put Daniel’s skills to the test, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Photo of Michael Daniel courtesy of CSIS