Governance & Risk Management

Former National Security Adviser, Ex-IBM CEO to Head Obama's Cybersecurity Panel

Tom Donilon, Sam Palmisano Tapped to Lead Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity
Former National Security Adviser, Ex-IBM CEO to Head Obama's Cybersecurity Panel
Tom Donilon, seen in a 2012 White House photo with President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

President Obama tapped his former national security adviser and the onetime chief executive of IBM to head his new Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.

See Also: How to Build Your Cyber Recovery Playbook

Tom Donilon, the former national security adviser, and Samuel Palmisano, IBM's onetime CEO, will be the chairman and vice chairman of the bipartisan, government-industry panel that Obama charged with providing detailed recommendations to strengthen public and private sectors' IT security (see New Commission Will Recommend Steps to Strengthen Information Security).

"With a chairman who understands government and national security issues, a vice chairman from the private sector who understands the intimacies of computing, of the digital world, the economic aspects of this, I think we've got two of the best possible people to chair this - to head up this effort," Obama said Wednesday in announcing the commission's leaders.

The commission has a Dec. 1 deadline to produce a report that will advise Obama and the next president on steps the government and private sector can take over the next 10 years to improve cybersecurity.

Huge Mission

"This is going to be a big agenda, a long-term agenda that is extremely complicated, extremely technical, and is going to require us to overhaul a bunch of legacy systems that are already in place," Obama says.

The commission is part of the administration's Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which Obama says will require the government and business to collaborate "for the next five years, 10 years, 20 years, so that we can make sure that we get the benefits of the Internet and utilization, and not the dangers and threats.

"They're going to be thinking about everything from how do we keep the huge databases that exist in the federal government more secure, to how do we more effectively work with critical sectors of our economy, whether it's the financial sector or our critical infrastructure, like utilities, to make sure their systems are more secure."

The commission will have up to a dozen members, all appointed by the president. According to the executive order establishing the commission, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate were invited to recommend one commission member each. The other commission members have not been revealed and the president did not mention who recommended Donilon and Palmisano to serve as the panel's leaders.

Leaders' Bios

Donilon served as national security adviser from October 2010 to June 2013. He is vice chairman of the international law firm O'Melveny & Myers, were he serves on the firm's global governing committee. He also is a distinguish fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, a think tank.

Palmisano served as IBM CEO from March 2002 to January 2012. Since May 2013, Palmisano has served as an independent adviser at Bloomberg L.P., focusing on the company's privacy and data standards.

Check back for updates to this story.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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