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White House Names Cybersecurity Coordinator

Just when many in the federal technology community had effectively closed the book on major tech news for 2009 the White House announced today the appointment of Howard Schmidt as the federal government's cyber coordinator, more than six-months after President Obama released his national Cyberspace Policy Review in May, designating plans to create the position. Schmidt is a former cybersecurity chief under President Bush.

In the announcement, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, reaffirmed cybersecurity as a major priority for the Obama Administration on par with economic recovery and health care reform. Schmidt will be charged with "orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government" and have "regular access to the President." The statement goes on to say that Schmidt will serve on the National Security Staff and work closely with the President's economic team. Both elements were introduced in the cyber review, but there was broad speculation as to where the position would primarily reside. Now we see that it is on the security side.

The announcement confirms another aspect of the position that GovWin saw early on when we assessed the May review, as well as what we have been hearing around town – that the job would have broad responsibility without the sufficient authority to drive action. The Washington Post confirms that many declined the position due to that very concern.

What is noteworthy about the selection of Schmidt is that his broad background in this area, both in and outside of government, means that he likely understands the minefield that he is stepping into – both from the practical cybersecurity perspective as well as the leadership perspective. Time will tell.

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