President Obama has picked a new cybersecurity officer amid furious debate between the White House and both chambers of Congress around the future of American cyber defense, the White House announced on Thursday.
Michael Daniel, a longtime member of the Office of Management and Budget’s national security squad, will fill the gap left by Howard Schmidt, who announced his departure earlier this week.
Daniel has been working with securities issues for 10 years and watched over multiple Defense Department programs, as well as the budgets for the federal government’s various cybersecurity programs. He has been involved with “virtually every major issue affecting the Intelligence Community,” according to a White House statement.
“I am very honored to be asked to take on such an important role, especially at a time when cybersecurity issues are so prominent,” said Daniel in a statement.
“The challenges in this area are real and serious, but I have the benefit of building on the progress Howard has made through his leadership and I look forward to continuing my career in public service in a new way.”
Schmidt, the exiting chief who worked in security at eBay and Microsoft prior to his two-year White House tenure, said he would be leaving the White House to retire, settle down with his family and begin a teaching career.
According to Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council, Schmidt’s accomplishments as cybersecurity chief include improving the security of government networks, delivering the Obama administration’s cybersecurity proposals to Congress and launching the first International Strategy for Cyberspace.
“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,” said Schmidt in a statement.
“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’s new role puts him right in the middle of a contentious debate about cybersecurity in the U.S. between both chambers of Congress and the White House. Multiple cybersecurity bills which take very different approaches have been introduced to Congress over the past few months.
The White House and many congressional Democrats want a cybersecurity plan which sets a standard that privately firms deemed vital to national security must meet. Congressional Republicans, however, argue such standard-setting would impose excessive regulation on those businesses.
Instead, they favor giving private firms and the government the ability to share information about cyberattacks.
The White House has expressed interest in information sharing, but has said that such sharing must not violate Americans’ right to privacy online. Accordingly, the White House issued a veto threat on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — better known as CISPA — because it felt the bill violated that principle.