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Bush said to be planning cybersecurity board

By Dan Verton

(IDG) -- The Bush administration plans to create a board of senior national security 
officials to oversee the federal government's critical infrastructure protection 
efforts, effectively doing away with the idea of designating a single cybersecurity 
"czar," sources said.

The move was said to have been agreed upon during a July 2 meeting with President 
Bush, who gave National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and other officials the green 
light to prepare a draft executive order setting up a Cybersecurity and Continuity of 
Operations Board. The sources said the meeting lasted for more than an hour, after 
initially being scheduled for 20 minutes, and resulted in a proposed plan that's now 
being circulated for agency comment.

A final version of the order is expected later this year. Sources on Capitol Hill, who 
asked not to be identified, said the proposed structure eliminates the notion of 
giving cybersecurity responsibility to one official in favor of appointing a board 
with representatives from the Defense, State and Commerce Departments plus the 
intelligence community and other agencies.

Richard Clarke, the longtime national coordinator for security, infrastructure 
protection and counterterrorism at the White House, is seen as the leading contender 
to be named chairman of the proposed panel. Under the new structure, Clarke would 
likely give up his counterterrorism role in favor of exclusive cybersecurity duties, 
according to the sources.

Ken Watson, director of critical infrastructure protection at Cisco Systems Inc. and 
president of the private-sector Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security 
(PCIS), said the general reaction from corporate officials to the draft presidential 
order has been positive.

"No single government agency can do all that's needed [to protect technology 
infrastructures], especially when that includes liaison with industry, oversight of 
federal budgets and international cooperation," Watson said. "We [think] that a board 
headed by a presidential adviser provides the right breadth and emphasis."

Kim Kotlar, an assistant to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), said establishing a 
high-level cybersecurity office would be a good first step in the government's effort 
to tackle the issue. However, "there are many unanswered questions on how such an 
organization would work and what its mission would be," she said.

The new plan also leaves open the option of allowing the tenures of the National 
Infrastructure Assurance Council (NIAC) and the National Security Telecommunications 
Advisory Committee (NSTAC) to expire on Oct. 1, according to sources familiar with the 
draft order. Just before he left office in January, former President Bill Clinton 
appointed 21 people, many of them longtime Democratic Party supporters, to the NIAC. 
Terminating those appointments would simply be a way for the Bush administration to 
put its own team in place, the sources said.

Harris Miller, president of the Arlington, Va.-based Information Technology 
Association of America and a member of the NIAC, said he would still prefer to see 
Bush name a cybersecurity czar in order to give companies and trade groups a single 
point of contact on security issues.

But the proposal to create a centralized, coordinated security effort based in the 
White House "makes sense" if done properly, Miller added. "The crucial challenge of 
this effort will be to ensure that the leadership from the White House is meaningful 
and that a new 'talking shop' is not created where problems are discussed, but 
solutions not found," he said.

Sources close to the White House said the executive order is likely to be issued in 
September, when the next version of a national plan for protecting information systems 
is scheduled for release. The update is supposed to further refine how the federal 
government and the private sector should cooperate on IT security.

However, the sources said publication of the next version of the national plan, which 
is being prepared by PCIS members with coordination by the Commerce Department's 
Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, will likely be delayed in order to allow the 
proposed new board to put its own imprint on the document. The plan was initially 
released in January of last year.


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