Obama said to be close again to naming cybersecurity chief

But after five months of delay is this just another rumor?

The Obama administration is once again reported to be close to naming a White House cybersecurity coordinator.

A story in the Federal Times, quoting unnamed sources, said that an announcement could come as soon as Thanksgiving.

The two people in the running for the post are Frank Kramer, a former assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration, and Howard Schmidt, a former White House cybersecurity adviser and corporate chief security officer (CSO), the report says. Both are names that have been mentioned as likely candidates for the position for several months.

This is not the first time that the White House has been rumored to be close to announcing its pick. In September, Reuters reported that an announcement was imminent. When that did not happen, some security analysts suggested that the White House could be waiting for October to make the announcement because the month had been designated as a "cybersecurity month."

Obama announced the creation of a White House cybersecurity coordinator role in May. At the time he said the role was needed to help coordinate national cybersecurity efforts to deal with growing threats against civilian government and critical infrastructure targets.

Many saw it as a sign of the administration's willingness to give cybersecurity issues the long overdue attention they deserved. Those who had supported the creation of such an office had hoped that a White House cybersecurity chief would have the clout needed to enforce government-wide change on cybersecurity matters.

More than five months have passed since that announcement however, and no one has been appointed to the role. The unexplained delay has killed a lot of the early enthusiasm that surrounded Obama's announcement. It has also prompted questions about the true nature of the role and whether it has been vested with the authority to make real change.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that candidates who were offered the job have declined it. Microsoft's Scott Charney, U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, Good Harbor Consulting's Paul Kurtz are among those who have turned the job down, the reports said.

Meanwhile, the delay has given lawmakers an opportunity to try and wrest the position away from the White House.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (Ind-Conn.) have both expressed concern about the new office's undercutting the role of the Department of Homeland Security in national cybersecurity matters, and being outside the purview of congressional oversight. Both senators have been arguing against a White House position and have said that they would not approve any funding for such an office.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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