The White House has selected the head of the intelligence branch in its budget office to be President Barack Obama's top adviser on cybersecurity issues, a move that comes as Congress and the Obama administration are at odds over how best to protect critical U.S. industries from crippling electronic attacks by cybercriminals, foreign governments and terrorists.
Michael Daniel, a 17-year veteran of the Office of Management and Budget's national security division, will replace Howard Schmidt as Obama's cybersecurity coordinator, the White House announced Thursday. Schmidt, who was appointed by Obama in December 2009, is retiring and returning to private life, according to the announcement. Before his White House appointment, Schmidt had worked as chief information security officer at eBay and chief security officer at Microsoft.
As the budget office's intelligence chief, Daniel has overseen classified programs being run by U.S. spy agencies and the Defense Department. He has also coordinated the budgets for the government's cybersecurity programs.
Daniel's new job puts him squarely in the middle of a contentious debate between the White House and congressional Republicans over legislation that would permit the government and the private sector to exchange information about threats in cyberspace. The White House supports the creation of an information-sharing system, but threatened to veto a bill passed last month by the GOP-led House because it said the measure failed to protect the privacy rights of Americans.
The White House is also demanding that any bill Congress passes to include provisions that require the companies that operate electric power plants, water supply, banking systems and more to meet basic security standards so their computer networks are protected from cyberattacks. But Republicans are opposed to new government regulations on businesses. They say the private sector knows best how to guard its computers.