WASHINGTON, December 22, 2009 – Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W.V. and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, praised President Obama’s selection of former Bush administration official Howard Schmidt to be the administration’s new cybersecurity coordinator.
“We commend President Obama for selecting Howard Schmidt as the cybersecurity coordinator,” Rockefeller and Snowe said in a joint statement. “He brings the technical expertise and the depth of private sector and governmental experience needed for this important job.”
Both Senators called for Schmidt to be given the latitude and authority his predecessors have lacked in order for him to fulfill his role to the best of his ability: “We urge the President and the National Security Council to ensure that Mr. Schmidt is given the authority within the White House and throughout the Federal government to do what needs to be done to secure our nation’s networks. He must have direct and regular access to the President, and everyone in government and the private sector must know that he is the President’s voice on cybersecurity matters.”
But even with a leader like Schmidt in place, Rockefeller and Snowe both expressed worry that the position does not have the cloud among other agencies that it needs for Schmidt to push Obama’s cybersecurity goals into place: “We remain concerned that this cybersecurity coordinator position, even filled by a leader like Schmidt, still does not possess the institutional heft that it needs.”
Both Senators called attention to legislation introduced last spring that would elevate Schmidt’s position to cabinet level and make the position Senate-confirmed. “Our legislation is based on the statute that created the U.S. Trade Representative. We believe that cybersecurity is an issue that cuts across all agencies of government and every sector of the U.S. economy, and our national and economic security calls for powerful leadership from the White House,” they said.
“Howard Schmidt’s appointment is a step in the right direction – but it is only a first step.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to identify Sen. Snowe as a senator from Maine.