DHS finally fills cybersecurity job

The nearly year-long wait for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to appoint an assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications is over.

The DHS this week announced that it has named Greg Garcia, formerly vice president of information security programs and policy at the Information Technology Association of America, to the cybersecurity post.

Before joining the ITAA in 2003, Garcia was a member of the professional staff of the U.S. House Science Committee’s subcommittee on research, where he was involved in programs related to IT. Garcia has also worked for 3Com Corp., and he was the “coalition manager” of a now-defunct group called Americans for Computer Privacy.

His appointment ends a search that began last October when DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff created the position in a bid to elevate the importance of cybersecurity issues within the agency.

Since then, the DHS has been under increasing pressure from industry groups and federal lawmakers to fill the position expeditiously. Just one week ago, some legislators suggested at a congressional hearing that the delay in finding someone for the job had considerably weakened the agency’s ability to coordinate a strategy for responding to a cyberattack against the nation’s critical infrastructure.

But George Foresman, DHS undersecretary for preparedness, said at the hearing that the agency was in the final stages of reviewing the credentials of an individual who was “very qualified” for the cybersecurity job. That was an apparent reference to Garcia.

Garcia’s appointment is “a very positive development,” said Shannon Kellogg, director of government and industry affairs at EMC Corp.’s RSA software division.

In particular, Kellogg pointed to Garcia’s role in helping to develop the Cyber Security Research and Development Act during his stint with the House Science Research Subcommittee. The measure was introduced by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and was signed into law in 2002.

“It took a while to make this appointment,” Kellogg said. “But [the DHS] clearly has someone who is respected by the industry, government [agencies] and on Capitol Hill.”

In his role at the ITAA, Garcia represented leading technology vendors in Washington. He also has a lot of experience working with large companies and understanding what issues are important to them, said Joe Tasker, the trade group’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Despite Garcia’s previous work as a corporate lobbyist, Tasker said he expects him to be a strong advocate for the government. “I think he’ll be appropriately tough on the private sector,” Tasker said.

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