Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 19, 2008

Obama Pick for Cyber Czar Comes Into Focus

Filed under: Cybersecurity — by Jonah Czerwinski on December 19, 2008

Forbes runs a story today identifying likely picks for the new position of National Cyber Adviser, which then-candidate Obama announced he would appoint to reflect his intention to “make cyber security the top priority that it should be in the 21st century. The new National Cyber Adviser, or NCA, would likely take over some leadership role for the National Cyber Security Initiative (NCSI), which DHS currently leads with support from the DNI and DOD.

The “cyber czar” post may go to Paul Kurtz, a partner with Good Harbor Consulting who joined Obama on the dais during the latter’s speech on cybersecurity at Purdue University. Paul served as senior director for the White House Office of Cyberspace Security and was special assistant to the President and senior director for critical infrastructure protection on the HSC, where he was responsible for both physical and cyber security. He has since also founded the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. Kurtz served on the CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, which advocated shifting the center of gravity for the NCSI to the White House. Today, Kurtz works the Presidential Transition Team.

But Kurtz may decline. According to Forbes, he has told friends that he’s “reluctant to accept” the new appointment. Others in the running include Gen. Charles Croom, the recently retired head of the Defense Information Systems Agency, and now a cybersecurity executive at Lockheed Martin. Croom also Commander of DOD’s Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations.

In that role, Croom sought “to accelerate the adoption of a net-centric culture in the Department, make information a force-multiplier, aggressively defend the network, facilitate warfighter connection to all information including intelligence information, achieve agility with non DoD partners, and invest in information technology prudently.”

Much of this experience is important to implementing an NCSI, but to be national requires an artful and effective engagement of a very broad set of stakeholders the defense community doesn’t really have to enfranchise in its normal daily business. For example, the private sector is a central player in this effort. Just how much DISA dealt with the commercial sector – beyond the defense contractors – is unclear.

And in the other corner…. Forbes even suggests that Rod Beckstrom is under consideration. Rod is the current head of the DHS National Cyber Security Center, which he took over less than a year ago. Rod is a successful Silicon Valley visionary who is best known for the book he co-authored on centralized and decentralized leadership networks and behavior called The Starfish and the Spider. When he joined DHS, he had little if any experience with cyber security. Since then, its hard to point to singular successes since much of that entity’s work is classified.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

December 19, 2008 @ 10:35 am

I would argue not organization but clearer statutory imprimaturs on cyber-security would be a help before trying to put the cart before the horse no matter how good the horse. Is there a good existing open source discussion of cyber security authority in the Executive Branch? Has OLC ever done one of its famous backgrounders on Cyber Security like it did for emergency energy authority under mandate from Congress in 1982 (which revealed some Governors have more authority for allocation than the President)? Hey the basics continue to be ignored. I worry that another White House Czar with a vague mandate won’t help. By the way isn’t Good Harbor Consulting Richard Clarke’s home away from home?

Comment by hiddenfaces7

December 20, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

Don’t we already have a group watching this issue? If we do then why does Obama feel the need to have a “Czar” for this? Maybe to patrol the internet so no one bad mouths his administration, just like he did with his campaign!? Seems like he is always covering his tracks for some reason! Very questionable actions if you ask me!

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