Tech Prods Obama over Cyber Czar

TechAmerica tells President Obama his promise to appoint a cyber-security coordinator in the White House is growing more urgent by the day. Obama promised to appoint a cyber-security coordinator more than five months ago.

The tech industry is growing impatient over President Obama's failure so far to appoint a cyber-security coordinator in the White House. It has been more than five months since Obama held a much ballyhooed media event on the importance of cyber-security and pledging to appoint a cyber-security coordinator.

"Those that would seek to harm America by exploiting our digital infrastructure continue to increase their efforts. The urgency for progress in cybersecurity remains, and, therefore, so does the need for the appointment of a qualified, credible, senior level official to the cybersecurity coordinator post," TechAmerica President Phil Bond said in an Oct. 30 letter to Obama.

TechAmerica, one of the nation's largest tech trade associations, sent the letter following a series of Washington meetings in which industry executives pressed Congress and the White House on the importance of strong cooperation between industry and governments at the national and international levels in securing cyberspace. TechAmerica members attending the sessions included General Electric, PGP, Symantec and Qualys.

"Ideally, such an individual would have relevant experience in both government and industry in order to truly reflect the shared roles and responsibilities in cybersecurity. We realize that such assignments require measured deliberation. We look forward to optimizing the momentum you have provided with the timely appointment of the cybersecurity coordinator," the TechAmerica letter states.

Following the May 29 event, tech executives were bubbling over Obama's cyber-security announcement. Bond called Obama's speech a "remarkable event." Enrique Salem, Symantec's CEO, hailed a new era of cyber-security and vowed, "We will not fall back ... like before," while Suzanne Magree, president and CEO of TechGuard Security, said that Obama's cyber-security initiative "coming so early in his first term bodes well." IBM's Chief Privacy Officer Harriet Pearson added, "Starting today, we're all security companies."

Even the Center for Democracy & Technology, a fierce watchdog group, praised Obama's speech.
"It's clear that the White House review team was committed to building privacy into these cybersecurity policy recommendations from the beginning of the process," CDT President and CEO Leslie Harris said in one of the dozens of statements flooding e-mail boxes after Obama's speech. "Further, we are greatly encouraged by the Administration's strong commitment to develop its cybersecurity privacy policies in a collaborative manner with those in the private sector."

In his May 29 speech on a cybersecurity and his promise of a White House cyber-security coordinator, Obama said, "Because of the critical importance of this work, I will personally select this official. I'll depend on this official in all matters relating to cybersecurity, and this official will have my full support and regular access to me as we confront these challenges. To ensure accountability in federal agencies, cybersecurity will be designated as one of my key management priorities. Clear milestones and performances metrics will measure progress."