Governance & Risk Management

10 Key Tasks of the Cybersecurity Czar

Obama: Coordination Is Key Role of the Job
10 Key Tasks of the Cybersecurity Czar
Though often referred to as a "czar," President Obama's new IT security adviser will be exactly what the commander in chief described in his White House address on Friday: a cybersecurity coordinator. Outlining the administration's cybersecurity policy, Obama referred to variations of coordinator or coordinate at least seven times in regards to new post, which will report to the heads of the National Security Council and National Economic Council.

"I want to focus on the important responsibilities this office will fulfill: orchestrating and integrating all cybersecurity policies for the government ... and, in the event of major cyber incident or attack, coordinating our response," Obama said.

What the cybersecurity coordinator will not do is act like a czar; he or she will not dictate government cybersecurity policy. The adviser will have no operational responsibility and no authority to make policy unilaterally, according to Obama's Cyberspace Policy Review.

So, exactly what will the cybersecurity coordinator - who the president says he'll pick himself - do? Among the chief jobs: advise the president on IT security. "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," the president said.

Here are 10 key tasks proposed for the cybersecurity coordinator, also referred to as the cybersecurity policy official, in the in Cyberspace Policy Review:

  1. Chair the Information and Communications Infrastructure Interagency Policy Committee, the government's primary policy coordination body for secured global information and communications infrastructure.

  2. Resolve competing priorities, coordinate interagency development of policies and strategies for cybersecurity in consultation with other White House offices.

  3. Participate in appropriate economic, counter-terrorists and science and technology policy discussions to provide the White House cybersecurity perspective.

  4. Supervise at least two senior directors and appropriate staff from National Security Council and at least one senior director and appropriate staff from National Economic Council to help achieve cybersecurity goals as established by national policy.

  5. Harmonize cybersecurity policy and technology efforts across the federal government, and ensure the president's budget reflects federal cybersecurity priorities.

  6. Develop the administration's legislative agenda, in consultation with federal chief information office and chief technology officer, along with appropriate organizations within the White House Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council.

  7. Serve as the administration's action officer for cyber incident response, a role similar to the action officers who help the White House monitor terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Each department and agency, though, would continue to perform their operational roles in event of a cyber attack.

  8. Prepare for the president's consideration an updated national strategy to secure the nation's critical information and communications infrastructure. The strategy would assist government efforts to raise public awareness, renew and build international alliances and public-private partnerships, establish a more comprehensive national cyber response and recovery plan and promote an aggressive research and development agenda that has the potential to result in new technologies that will enhance cybersecurity.

  9. Work with departments and agencies to recommend coherent unified policy guidance to clarify authorities, roles and responsibilities for cybersecurity-related activities across the federal government.

  10. Create a joint interagency cyber task force to assist agencies with compliance.

This list is subject to change, as the White House negotiates with Congress specific roles and responsibilities that could be reflected in forthcoming legislation.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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