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Cybersecurity Coordinator: On the Way but with What Power?

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By Admin on September 14, 2009 1:47 PM

Last May, President Obama announced the establishment of a White House office to be led by a Cybersecurity Coordinator. According to reports, Frank Kramer, a member of Bill Clinton's administration, may soon be named as the Cybersecurity Coordinator, tasked with coordinating cyber security efforts within different branches of government and with private industry.

Last week, Reuters reported, from an unnamed source familiar with the decision-making process, that Frank Kramer, a former assistant Defense secretary under President Clinton, looks to be the current front-runner.

The White House has been criticized for the delay in installing a head of the newly created cyber security office. Computer World reports indications that numerous individuals floated as possible Cybersecurity Coordinators refused the job due to concerns that the office would not have adequate power to affect real cyber security improvements.

So, what role will such a Cybersecurity Coordinator have? The position was created to enable cyber security improvements across disparate government agencies and departments. However, it appears that divisions between these departments (part of the the need for such a Coordinator in the first place), along with bureaucratic infighting, may have caused the delay in naming a nominee.

Though Obama stated in his May speech that the Cybersecurity Coordinator would be personally selected by the President, and would have access to him, the position is defined to report to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. According to Computer World, neither the National Security Council nor the National Economic Council appears eager to give the Cybersecurity Coordinator much power.

Information Week reported that Melissa Hathaway, who led the 60 day review of cyber security efforts which recommended creation of the position (and was once rumored to be a contender for the job) resigned her post because she did not feel empowered to drive federal cyber security policy.

James Lewis, one of the 60 day review's coauthors stated that "[t]he people whom the White House wants don't want the job because it is three layers down and because of the infighting that surrounded the 60-day review," according to Computer World.

Whether Frank Kramer will serve as Cybersecurity Coordinator, and more importantly, what effect the office will have, remains to be seen.