Obama Cybersecurity Coordinator Resigns

Howard Schmidt to Step Down at End of Month

By , May 17, 2012.
Obama Cybersecurity Coordinator Resigns

Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator since January 2010, will step down as President Obama's top IT security adviser at the end of the month.

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Schmidt, 62, says he's retiring to spend more time with his family and to pursue teaching in the cybersecurity field.

In a statement issued by the White House, Schmidt says he and his government colleagues "have made real progress in our efforts to better deal with the risks in cyberspace so, around the world, we can all realize the full benefits that cyberspace brings us."

Schmidt will be succeeded by J. Michael Daniel, chief of the White House budget office's intelligence branch. Daniel is a 17-year Office of Management and Budget veteran, having spent the past 10 years focused on cybersecurity.

Daniel, 41, played a key role in shaping intelligence budgets and has worked on every major issue affecting the intelligence community, according to the White House. Since 2007, Daniel has coordinated funding for federal cybersecurity activities, including the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and an annual review of federal agency cybersecurity spending.

Daniel, in a statement, says he's honored to be asked to take on such an important role at a time cybersecurity is a prominent issue. "The challenges in this area are real and serious, but I have the benefit of building on the progress Howard has made through his leadership and I look forward to continuing my career in public service in a new way," he says.

NSA Director Enthused by Daniel's Appointment

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the National Security Agency and military cyber command, says the cybersecurity coordinator-designate has been an influential voice in cybersecurity within the executive branch. "He understands the challenges that are facing our nation in cyberspace and the importance of moving forward with urgency to address the threats," Alexander says in a statement issued by the White House. "He listens carefully, quickly gets to the root of issues and identifies a path forward that takes into account the stakeholders key issues"

Schmidt, during his tenure, led efforts to raise the public's consciousness of IT security, traveling around the country, speaking about the cyberthreats facing government, business and society. Behind the scenes, he worked with Congress to help shape legislation aimed at quelling the cyberthreat. Many of the administration's cybersecurity goals can be found in a Senate bill, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, that would toughen IT security requirements on federal agencies Federal Information Security Management Act as well as regulate the mostly privately owned national critical IT infrastructure.

As head of the Internet Security Alliance, an industry trade group, Larry Clinton has battled Schmidt over cyber regulation of private industry, yet characterizes the retiring cybersecurity coordinator as an "unsung national hero." Clinton says Schmidt's most tangible accomplishments involved the "herculean task" of coordinating various federal agencies with overlapping and conflicting cyber mandates, including the emergence of the cyber command and defining the cybersecurity roles of the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the NSA.

"Anyone who doesn't think this is a major accomplishment doesn't understand the problem," Clinton says. "More generally, Howard can be credited for being one of the major influences on the emergence of cybersecurity as a major issue requiring far more intensified public policy analysis and direction than was the case before Howard took office."

Among Schmidt's pet projects is the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, an initiative that envisions an Internet ecosystem in which people can choose from a marketplace of trusted credentials that prove their identities so they can transact business safely online (see video interview with Schmidt below).

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Also during Schmidt's tenure, the White House announced an international cyberspace strategy that called for the United States to respond to cyberattacks as it would to kinetic attacks.

Follow Eric Chabrow on Twitter: @GovInfoSecurity

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