Panel calls on Obama to appoint a cybersecurity czar

Published 25 November 2008

CSIS panel urges the incoming president to elevate handling of cyber security issues to the White House and not leave them with DHS, which is the current leader on these issues

When the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency releases its recommendations for the President-elect Barack Obama next month, one of them will be that the issue be elevated to the White House and not left with DHS, which is the current lead. “This needs to be directed out of the Executive Office of the President,” in close cooperation with the National Security Council, Representative Jim Langevin (D-Rhode Island), a co-chair of the bipartisan commission, said recently. “DHS will not be able to handle it at this point,” he said. “It is still a young, immature agency trying to stand itself up.”

GCN’s William Jackson writes that the commission was formed last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It is bipartisan group made up of government officials and industry experts. Langevin’s co-chair is Representative Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas).

Commission member Tom Kellermann, vice president for security awareness with Core Security Technologies, said that “we are involved in a war of attrition,” in cyberspace, and that the FBI has identified more than 100 countries with military divisions dedicated to developing cyber attack capability. “In addition to that, organized crime around the world has adopted hacking as a primary business model.” The United States must adopt a doctrine of deterrence in cyberspace, and “this necessitates a senior adviser in the White House,” he said.

The incoming administration of President-elect Obama has been receptive to these ideas, Kellermann said, and is expected to have a senior IT security adviser in the White House.

Jackson notes that not everyone agrees that this is necessary idea, or even a good one. Will Wilkinson, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, recently said in a commentary article that “America does not need more czars.”

Obama’s adviser would not be the first cyber czar. Richard Clarke held that position in the Clinton administration but left early in the Bush administration. It was another six years before cyber security was elevated to the assistant secretary position in DHS, and in that time the situation has gotten worse, Kellermann said. The country is just now beginning to acknowledge that. “We have finally gotten a cultural awareness that technology is a double edged sword and it is being used against us,” he said.