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Obama closes in on cybersecurity czar appointment

Former Clinton-era Pentagon official emerges as front runner

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US President Barack Obama is reportedly close to appointing a new White House cybersecurity chief.

Frank Kramer, former assistant defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, is likely to inherit the job within two weeks, filling a vacant position that has existed since the office was established more than three months ago, Reuters reports.

The news agency quotes an unnamed source on the appointment and Aneesh Chopra, chief technology officer of the federal government and a member of the interview panel, in supporting the general thrust of the article that an appointment is close.

The title of White House cybersecurity coordinator sounds impressive but the executive in charge of the role would be obliged to report to both to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Instead of being placed in a position to exert real influence, the role is increasingly seen as consultative and advisory, Computerworld reports.

Delays in naming a cybersecurity coordinator, together with reports that well placed candidates including Microsoft's Scott Charney and Congressman Tom Davis had turned down the job, increased the perception that the role would be nowhere as influential as first suggested. Melissa Hathaway, who recommended the creation of the role after running a 60-day cybersecurity review for the Obama administration, resigned from her role as an Obama advisor back in August withdrawing her earlier interest in becoming White House cybersecurity chief.

Hathaway, a former Bush administration official, cited frustration at delays in filling the role in her decision to withdraw.

Kramer, or whoever gets appointed to the cybersecurity czar role, faces a bulging inbox of problems including establishing a strategy for defending critical national infrastructure systems (banking, utilities etc.) from attack. He or she will have to be an adept political operator to get anything done, especially with multiple agencies (including the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security) vying for influence in leading federal cybersecurity strategy.

More information on the Obama administration's cybersecurity policy review and related speeches can be found on the White House website here. ®

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