The White House moved quickly Thursday to name Michael Daniel as President Obama’s cybersecurity adviser to replace retiring Howard Schmidt.
Daniel assumed the key position immediately as Congress and the White House continue to spar over how best to protect critical U.S. industries from crippling cyberattacks. He served for 17 years in the Office of Management and Budget’s National Security Division and worked for the past 10 years on cybersecurity as chief of the Intelligence Branch.
“I am very honored to be asked to take on such an important role, especially at a time when cybersecurity issues are so prominent,” Daniel said 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.”
The personnel switch occurs at a critical time, with a cybersecurity proposal still hanging in Congress. The House passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), last month, but the White House has threatened to veto it, saying it would undermine privacy and fail to protect critical infrastructure. The White House has endorsed a bill in the Senate, but the measure has yet to come up for a vote.
Jim Lewis, Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Daniel is well-known for his work on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative “and is somebody who gets things done.”
Schmidt, appointed by Obama in December 2009, is retiring and returning to private life, according to the White House announcement.
“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,” Schmidt said 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.”
Schmidt plans to ride his motorcycle west and visit family, according to the Washington Post. Before the White House appointment, Schmidt had worked as chief information security officer at eBay and chief security officer at Microsoft.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Schmidt “has been an invaluable resource in our ongoing efforts to strengthen cybersecurity and protect our nation’s critical infrastructure.”
Breaking Gov Editorial Director Wyatt Kash contributed to this report.