by Dan Fowler, CQ Homeland Security

Jun 8, 2009

President Obama had barely announced plans to appoint a White House cyber czar before experts suggested the position might be doomed by a lack of real power.

Obama’s announcement on May 29 sounded good, experts said, but it was missing a crucial element: the assurance that the new official would have budget authority.

“If you do not have the power of the purse, the entrenched bureaucracies will blow you off, they will ignore you,” said Rich Cooper, a principal at the homeland security consulting firm Catalyst Partners.

Obama said his cybersecurity adviser, who will be a member of both the National Security Staff and the National Economic Council staff, will have his “full support and regular access” to him in heading a new office within the White House that would handle all cybersecurity policy for the government, work with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure budgetary priorities are met, and coordinate the response to major attacks.

But the budget authority was a sticking point for Cooper. While he liked that the cyber czar will report to both the NSC and NEC, the position would be empowered if it were required to report to the OMB as well, he said. That would enable the official to recommend prescriptive measures to budgets and programs, bringing them in line with “a larger national strategy and architecture.”

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