On most Mondays, it’s often hard to find good news but this morning produced a rare exception. According to NextGov, the ODNI’s Melissa Hathaway is on her way to becoming the nation’s Cyber Czar. While I’ve been critical of putting a cyber czar position in the White House because it won’t have the authority to move budgets, programs and other pieces around the federal game board, the selection of Hathaway to fill this position is a great one.
For anyone who has not had the chance to see her speak or read any of her numerous writings on the cyber security subject, you are in for a real treat. Her candor and command about the threats (both ongoing and forthcoming) and the costs in terms of national and economic security, intellectual property, etc., are amazing and very powerful.
Last year I had the opportunity to see her present at a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and I walked away thoroughly impressed. I don’t often expect senior intelligence executives to walk into a room of business leaders and speak pointedly about the vulnerabilities, consequences and threats that our nation faces, both in the public and private sectors and at the individual family and citizen level. All too often, senior intelligence officials in public forums speak in broader thematic tones and avoid specifics when presenting challenging information. They often justify staying at the big picture level by alleging that getting into specifics would be too hard for most to understand and that it might take too much time to explain the situation. In reality, many want to avoid saying something that could be misinterpreted.
She put the problem right on the table and made sure every member of the audience knew that that they were a target and probable victim of the growing cyber security threat. Even more impressively, she offered that government did not and would not have all of the answers and solutions to combat these threats and implored the private sector, as well as educators, to get engaged in order for us to have any chance of turning the tide.
She’s right, and it’s time we all started to face some serious facts about this threat. If you look at the entirety of all of our infrastructures, each is a vital organ which others depend on to work. Cyber, though, is even more complex than a single organ. It is our entire central nervous system which everything and every organ depends on to function properly. If it is compromised, disrupted or destroyed, we’ve got a helluva problem to deal with. Treatment options after the fact can come too late to make the patient whole again.
While I still think putting a cyber czar in the White House will be an exercise in futility, putting Melissa Hathaway in charge gives me hope that the Obama Administration is going to move out quickly to address the cyber issue seriously and competently. If she is indeed tapped by the President to lead this initiative, the Administration could not have found a better communicator or a more candid, collaborative leader to address the most complex and serious threat we have to our country’s national and economic security today and in the years to come.
Give her the job, Mr. President.