The Situation Report: Federal CISO Reversal

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CISO Reversal

The Obama administration’s last budget before leaving office landed this week with a loud thud on Capitol Hill. And while the Federal IT community can’t stop talking about the big boost in IT modernization and cybersecurity, the reality is there might be a lot less there than you think.

Take, for example, the decision to establish a Federal chief information security officer (CISO) position. Just one year ago, U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott was convinced there was no need for such a position, arguing that most of the security work in government is done by agency CISOs.

“In most agencies, we do have a chief information security officer. That’s where really most of the government work takes place,” Scott said last August. “So, at the moment, at least, I don’t feel a need for that. We’ve got great help from Homeland Security and from some of the other components. So, I think at the moment I’m not feeling the urgency for that that might be the case, otherwise.”

That was then.

Fast forward 18 months and Scott is a believer. “That’s a key role that many private sector companies have long implemented and it’s good practice for the Federal government,” he told reporters this week.

The Situation Report has picked up strong signals that more than a few current and former Federal IT officials have their doubts about the new CISO position, particularly what, if any, real authority will come with it. After all, it took an act of Congress to give Federal CIOs enough authority to even think about effecting real change. According to Scott, the new position will strictly be a policy position and will not be “operational” at the agency level.

“I just wish it wasn’t in the last budget of a lame duck president,” said Alan Balutis, senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems Public Sector, speaking Thursday at the launch of the Tech Iconoclasts position paper in Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s too bad that here we are in the last year of the Obama administration and we’re finally getting to important ideas,” said Richard Spires, the chief executive officer of Learning Tree International and the former CIO at the Department of Homeland Security.

Millennial Madness

This Situation Report’s college campus listening post has picked up disturbing signals about America’s tech future. At a time when government is in dire need of fresh tech talent capable of leading it into the future, the nation’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students simply aren’t interested.

Intercepts targeting 1,500 STEM students ages 18-25 uncovered a whopping 70 percent have no interest in offering their tech talents to Uncle Sam. And when it comes to a six-month to two-year “tour of duty” in government, 57 percent of America’s future tech talent still have no interest. Those same intercepts reveal that female STEM students are significantly less likely than their male counterparts to want to pursue a career in Federal IT.

stem survey millennial math

Get your copy of this intelligence report here: https://www.meritalk.com/study/millennial-math/

Dan Verton
About Dan Verton
MeriTalk Executive Editor Dan Verton is a veteran journalist and winner of the First Place Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for Best News Reporting -- the highest award in the nation for business/trade journalism. Dan earned a Master's Degree in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University in Washington, D.C., and has spent the last 20 years in the nation's capital reporting on government, enterprise technology, policy and national cybersecurity. He’s also a former intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps, has authored three books on cybersecurity, and has testified on critical infrastructure protection before both House and Senate committees.
3 Comments
  1. Anonymous | - Reply
    Curious how Tony Scott has changed his mind on the CISO role, especially considering how long it's taken agencies to figure out the role of the CIO. It is poor timing that Obama will be leaving office soon -- hopefully the next President finds tech policy and cyber security to be of the same importance.
  2. Anonymous | - Reply
    Just ask John Brennan what keeps him up at night as he revealed in his 60 minutes interview on Sunday evening. Cybersecurity needs to be the number one priority.
  3. Anonymous | - Reply
    No matter what party, the next President needs to realize the importance of beefing up Federal IT and bringing in young talent - otherwise information security will continue to be a headache for all Federal CIOs.

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