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Obama Cybersecurity Czar Schmidt Steps Down

Howard A. Schmidt, the first-ever U.S. cybersecurity coordinator, has resigned and will retire later this month to enter academia
The nation's first cybersecurity czar, Howard A. Schmidt, has resigned his historic post and will be succeeded by Michael Daniel, chief of the White House budget office's intelligence branch.

Schmidt said in a statement that he is leaving to spend more time with his family and to teach in the technology field. "It has been a tremendous honor for me to have served in this role and to have worked with such dedicated and professional colleagues both in the government and private sector," the 62-year-old Schmidt said in a statement reported in The Hill. "We have made real progress in our efforts to better deal with the risks in cyberspace so, around the world, we can all realize the full benefits that cyberspace brings us."

Daniel, 41, has been with the Office of Management and Budget for 17 years, the past 10 of which he worked on cybersecurity, according to a report in The Washington Post. Daniel helped establish funding for the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative under George W. Bush's administration, and has worked on intelligence community issues and budgets.

President Obama in December 2009 named Schmidt to the newly created post. Schmidt had most recently served as president and CEO of the international nonprofit Information Security Forum and was previously chief information security officer at eBay and at Microsoft. "The president has directed me to focus on several priority areas: developing a new comprehensive strategy to secure American networks, ensuring an organized, unified response to future cyber-incidents; strengthening public-private partnerships here at home and international partnerships with allies and partners; promoting research and development of the next-generation of technologies; and leading a national campaign to promote cybersecurity awareness and education," Schmidt had said in a video statement after his being named to the post. "Because ultimately no one -- not government, not the private sector, not individuals -- can keep us safe and strong alone."

That uniting of government and private-industry security expertise was the underlying theme of much of Schmidt's efforts as cybersecurity czar. In an interview with Dark Reading last year, Schmidt echoed the need for the feds to help private industry by sharing attack intelligence. "We are able to coalesce intelligence ... the government has information that comes from its unique position, so part of this is taking that information and [showing] we care about putting the bad guys in jail," he said. "We want to make sure we are sharing with our private-sector partners."

Schmidt focused on raising public awareness of cybersecurity and threats facing consumers, government, and business. During his tenure, the White House announced its National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), as well as the establishment of an international cyberstrategy on how the U.S. would respond and defend itself in the face of cyberattacks by adversaries.

He also helped form the White House's first-ever cybersecurity legislation to better protect critical infrastructure, but debate over privacy concerns and others issues have stymied passage of a bill thus far.

Business Software Alliance president and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement that Schmidt succeeded in making cybersecurity a top priority in government. "Howard Schmidt has provided tremendous leadership as the country’s first Cybersecurity Coordinator," Holleyman said. "More than anyone, he has helped map the issue terrain and chart a comprehensive policy agenda to improve America's cyber readiness. That will put Michael Daniel in a strong position to continue making progress when he takes over. Daniel is a great choice for the job, because he brings deep experience from the years he has spent working on security issues at OMB."

Holleyman commended Schmidt's key initiatives, including the Cyberspace Policy Review, and NSTIC. "Schmidt has helped bring the Administration’s Cyberspace Policy Review to life,” Holleyman said. "He elevated cybersecurity to a key management priority in government and led an overhaul of the way departments and agencies go about securing their systems. He also helped improve coordination between agencies, and between government and the private sector. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) was an especially important accomplishment, because it will spur e-commerce by shoring up the very foundations of trust and confidence in cyberspace."

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