Top 10 Influencers in Government IT Security

Our Annual List of Top Security Leaders
Top 10 Influencers in Government IT Security

To acknowledge leaders who are playing a critical role in shaping the way governments approach information security and privacy, GovInfoSecurity announces its fourth annual list of Influencers.

See Also: Buyers Guide: Third-Party Cyber Risk Management



GovInfoSecurity presents its fourth annual ranking of 10 individuals who we see shaping the way that governments approach information security in 2013.

What makes an Influencer? It's a combination of position and know-how. Plus, each of the Influencers has demonstrated the ability to lead and collaborate, characteristics of individuals who have a proven history on getting things done.

How did we choose the Influencers? We queried the GovInfoSecurity board of advisers and other government IT security thought-leaders and experts to identify candidates, with the editors making the final decision on the 2013 lineup.

10. Chris Buse

Chief Information Security Officer, State of Minnesota

Buse is the type of CISO other CISOs call when they're stumped. "When I have an issue kicking around, I'll pick up the phone to call Chris," says a veteran state CISO. Buse, who's passionate about his job, is a visionary who implements his vision. "He's an incredible advocate to improve the cyber posture," another IT security official says.

9. Ron Ross

Fellow and Leader, FISMA Implementation Project, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ross knows more about information risk management than anyone else in the federal government. He wrote the book on it, or at least the NIST guidance, as principal architect of NIST's risk management framework. Ross leads the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative, a partnership with NIST, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, that has developed a unified information security framework for the federal government.

8. Michael McCaul

Chairman, House Homeland Security Committee

McCaul assumes the chairmanship of the panel in the new 113th Congress, and among its oversight responsibilities is defining the government's role in helping secure the nation's public and private critical IT systems. The Texas Republican is no novice to IT security; he co-founded the House Cybersecurity Caucus and served as one of the co-chairs of the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, an elite panel that advised President Obama on cyberspace policy when he took office.

7. Steven VanRoekel

Chief Information Officer, United States Government

VanRoekel's statutory title is administrator for e-government and information technology in the White House Office of Management and Budget. In that role, he oversees budgeting on IT security matters, an even more important task as the federal government reins in its budget deficit. Directives pushing agencies to adopt continuous monitoring emanate from VanRoekel's OMB office.

6. Mark Weatherford

Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity, National Protection and Programs Directorate, Department of Homeland Security

President Obama is giving the Department of Homeland Security more sway in overseeing civilian agency cybersecurity and serving as the main contact with private-sector critical infrastructure owners on safeguarding IT networks. At the nexus of this is Weatherford, whose background as CISO of California and Colorado and CSO at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., an industry group, makes him well suited for these roles.

5. Tom Carper

Chairman, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

With the retirement of Sen. Joe Lieberman, Carper moves up to the chairmanship of the panel that deals with national cybersecurity protection and federal government IT security governance. In the past two Congresses, the Delaware Democrat chaired the subcommittee with IT security oversight, and his FISMA reform legislation was incorporated in the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

4. Keith Alexander

Director, National Security Agency, and Commander, United States Cyber Command

The four-star Army general oversees the most respected IT security agency in or out of government, the NSA, as well as the 2½-year-old Cyber Command. Both organizations are crucial to the defense of military IT networks, and Alexander contends that the military's role goes beyond the physical protection of the nation from our adversaries to include safeguarding American assets in cyberspace as well.

3. Will Pelgrin

CEO, Center for Internet Security, and Founder, Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center

Pelgrin, the former top IT security official in New York State, runs an expanding organization that enables states to share and analyze threat information and provides local, state and tribal governments with IT security benchmarks and discounts to procure software, hardware and services. A colleague once characterized Pelgrin as a CISO's CISO, a "cool testament" to the type of leaders emanating out of state government.

2. Michael Daniel

Special Assistant to the President and White House Cybersecurity Coordinator

When Daniel replaced Howard Schmidt last June, some of the most-connected people in Washington's cybersecurity community had never heard of him. As the Office of Management and Budget intelligence branch chief for 11 years, Daniel stayed behind the scenes. He has retained that low-key approach in his new position. But don't interpret his virtual invisibility to a lack of influence over administration cybersecurity policy; he just leaves its advocacy to cabinet and subcabinet officials.

1. Barack Obama

President of the United States

As Harry Truman once said of the presidency, "The buck stops here." When it comes to IT security in the federal government, and the nation, the ultimate Influencer is the president. Though he's rarely vocal about it, President Obama maintains that cybersecurity remains a major administration priority.

2012 Influencers

See the 2012 Slideshow

  1. Mark Weatherford, Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity, National Protection and Program Directorate, Department of Homeland Security
  2. Steven VanRoekel, Federal Chief Information Officer, White House Office of Management and Budget
  3. Ashton Carter, Deputy Secretary, Department of Defense
  4. Jay Rockefeller, Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
  5. David McClure, Associate Administrator, Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, General Services Administration
  6. Elayne Starkey, Chief Security Officer, State of Delaware
  7. Daniel Lungren, Chairman, Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure and Security Technologies, House of Representatives
  8. Christopher Painter, Coordinator, Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, Department of State
  9. Alan Paller, Research Director, SANS Institute
  10. Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology

2011 Influencers

See the 2011 Story

  1. Darrell Issa, Chairman, House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform
  2. William Lynn III, Deputy Secretary of Defense
  3. William Pelgrin, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Internet Security
  4. Thomas Carper, Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security
  5. Sameer Bhalotra, Deputy White House Cybersecurity Coordinator
  6. Susan Collins, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  7. Michael Brown, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications, National Protection and Programs
  8. Directorate, Department of Homeland Security
  9. Marianne Swanson, Senior Adviser for IT Security Management, Computer Science Division, NIST
  10. Christopher Ipsen, Chief Information Security Officer, State of Nevada
  11. Mac Thornberry, Leader, House Cybersecurity Task Force

2010 Influencers

See the 2010 Story

  1. Barack Obama, President of the United States
  2. Howard Schmidt, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator
  3. Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer
  4. Keith Alexander, Director, National Security Agency
  5. Robert Carey, Chief Information Officer, Department of the Navy
  6. John Streufert, Chief Information Security Officer, Department of State
  7. Joseph Lieberman, Chairman, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  8. Philip Reitinger, Deputy Undersecretary, Department of Homeland Security
  9. Ron Ross, Senior Computer Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology
  10. James Langevin, Co-Chair, House Cybersecurity Caucus
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When we published our first Influencers list for 2010, the main factor in making our decision on who to select was the position each one held. In the following two years, we purposely excluded those from the previous years so we could expand the list of people who influence IT security policy, process and practice in government.

But with a new term for the president and a new Congress, we decided to start fresh and select 10 individuals regardless of whether they appeared on the list before. All but two of those listed for 2013 have appeared on earlier versions of the ranking.

Our editors chose these individuals for the influence they've had over the last year, as well as the impact we expect them to have in 2013 and beyond.

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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