A cybersecurity czar this month — maybe


The president has been accused of “dithering” on his Afghanistan strategy review. (Personally, I think he’s right to take his time: Escalating the war is not an easy decision, and when tens of thousands of soldiers are being sent into combat, better to take some extra time to get it right.)

But that’s not the only important decision on which Obama has delayed. There’s also the question of appointing a “cyber czar,” a White House official to coordinate cybersecurity policy. Obama announced the new position in May, during a White House speech on cybersecurity, but the position has remained vacant for more than five months.

The delay is starting to attract criticism. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., said last week that he was frustrated with the delay. TechAmerica, an IT industry group, put out a press release this afternoon calling on Obama to appoint a czar “at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Why is the decision taking so long? I’ve posed this question to a few people in recent weeks.

The consensus seems to be that, at first, nobody wanted the job. Several cybersecurity officials have resigned in frustration this year: Mischel Kwon, formerly in charge of US-CERT, stepped down in August; and Rod Beckstrom, the former director of the National Cybersecurity Center, resigned in March.

There’s a general sense that cybersecurity officials don’t have the authority and resources they need to do their jobs — and that scared off a number of would-be applicants for the cyber czar job.

But it seems the White House is finally close to a decision. Several sources told me it could come by the end of the month — perhaps timed around Thanksgiving, when Congress is out of town. (The announcement will surely prompt cries of “what took you so long,” and the administration wants to minimize those.)


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