Governance & Risk Management

Schmidt Aide Moves to State as Cyber Chief

Chris Painter to Lead Department's Diplomatic Engagement on Cyber
Schmidt Aide Moves to State as Cyber Chief
Hillary Clinton has high expectations for Chris Painter, the head of the State Department's newly created Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, as the internationalization of IT security gains as a foreign policy priority.

"We are leading the push to strengthen cybersecurity and online innovation, building capacity in developing countries, championing open and interoperable standards and enhancing international cooperation to respond to cyberthreats," the secretary of state said in a speech last week about Internet freedom, in which she revealed the appointment of Painter, a chief lieutenant to Howard Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator.

"In the coming year, the administration will complete an international strategy for cyberspace, charting the course to continue this work into the future," Clinton said. "This is a foreign policy priority for us, one that will only increase in importance in the coming years."

According to the State Department, Painter will:

  • Lead the department's global diplomatic engagement on cyber issues.
  • Serve as State's primary liaison to the president's cybersecurity coordinator for activities involving cyber issues and as well as to other federal agencies that work on cyber issues.
  • Report to the secretary and be guided by a cyber advisory council, chaired by the deputy secretary and including the undersecretaries for economic growth, energy and the environment; arms control and international security; and management as permanent members.

Department bureaus that address cyber matters will name a representative to work directly with the Office of the Coordinator, and representatives of regional bureaus will participate in a working group under the coordinator's authority, according to State's first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which outlines the new office's goals.

Clinton announced the creation of the cybersecurity post in December, as part of the department's first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The secretary's remarks late last year came in the wake of WikiLeaks' unauthorized release of more than 250,000 sensitive and classified diplomatic cables, but Anne-Marie Slaughter, State Department director of policy planning, said the leaked cables didn't play into the decision to create the cyber coordinator position.

"That decision was actually taken nearly a year ago, and it has taken a while to find the right person and to create the structures to work with the government," Slaughter said at December briefing. "But that was the result of an overall review on how the government as a whole needs to be organized for cybersecurity. It was way, way before WikiLeaks. We certainly hope that once that person is working, as the secretary said, we will be able to do much more to protect the confidentiality of our communications." (See State Department Creates Cyber Coordinator Post.)

Painter served as acting White House cybersecurity coordinator in the months preceding the naming of Howard Schmidt to that post (see Acting Cybersecurity "Czar" Speaks Out). Since Schmidt's ascension to the cybersecurity post, Painter has served as a top lieutenant and principal adviser in the cybersecurity coordinator's White House office.

Before joining the White House national security team in early 2009 - he became acting coordinator that summer, Painter served as deputy assistant director of the FBI cyber division; principal deputy chief at the Justice Department's computer crime and intellectual property division; and as an assistant U.S. attorney. "I've been involved with cybersecurity for 20 years" - he prosecuted hacker Kevin Mitnick in the mid-1990s - "and I have never seen in my career so many people coming together with such a common purpose," Painter said in remarks at a December 2009 CIO Council IT security conference.

Painter holds a law degree from Stanford University Law School and bachelor of arts degrees in political science, English and biology from Cornell University.

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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