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US cybersecurity chief claims lack of experience not important to job

updated 01:13 pm EDT, Sat August 23, 2014

Presidential advisor believes education, overall government experience sufficient

In an interview with the Information Security Media Group publication, White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel admits to having no practical experience with the subject matter. Daniel claims that "being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction" to his job of advising the President about ongoing and emergent information security issues.

The White House filled the position with Daniel in May 2012, coming from a previous position as the intelligence branch chief in the White House Office of Management and Budget. Daniel believes that the lack of practical experience in the field is offset by a masters' degree in national resource planning and public policy degree. He also credits previous government experience for success in the position, augmented by his martial arts experience.

Daniel isn't responsible for the technical details of a fix or solution to a country-wide issue. Rather, his job is to assess the situation and report to the president, and bring other agencies into the fold and "on the same page" about an issue. Senior Fellow Jim Lewis at the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies claims that the lack of experience doesn't hinder Daniel's role in the position, claiming that "computer scientists were in charge, and they did a terrible job, being lost in the weeds and largely clueless about policy. You need someone with a strategic point of view and policy skill to make progress."

The interview was made public earlier this week. Critics of Daniel's remarks call the assignment political patronage, and claim to be interested in a governmental query about the positioning of the official. Daniel himself hasn't responded to any requests for comment about his statements.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. chimaera

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 04-08-07

    To advise another on a subject you know nothing about. For excellent pay.

    Where can I sign up?

  1. prl99

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 03-24-09

    How can he assess anything without some level of technical understanding? He doesn't have to know how to program but he definitely needs to know what is possible and what isn't. I was in a similar cyber security position but even though I couldn't write scripts to find malware or properly configure networks, I still knew enough to know what we needed to do, when it needed to be done, and who I needed to find to get it done. From the sound of it, this guy doesn't think he even needs to know this. Makes sense, though, because OMB controls a lot of government activities and with this guy in charge it's no wonder things never got done correctly.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by chimaeraView Post

    To advise another on a subject you know nothing about. For excellent pay.

    Where can I sign up?



    The National Weather Service: http://noaa.gov



    Forecast accuracy must be at least 20%.

  1. climacs

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 09-06-01

    I'm with prl99. While such a person need not be a master hacker, he at least needs to be familiar enough with the topic to know what to make of the advice and intelligence he's given. That's a large part of why GW Bush was such an awful president. At the time the excuse was given, "well he'll have all these wise people advising him, so it's OK." Well, wise people have their own agendas all the same and it takes an experienced leader or manager to know how to make sense of what he's told. It became well-known in the Bush administration that W tended to follow the advice of whoever got to him last. Cheney played him like a fiddle.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    He didn't say he has NO technology experience or expertise, but it was said that "computer scientists" couldn't do the job. I tend to agree. The head of the FBI is not the world's best lawyer or cop, and the head of the CIA isn't a master spy. They are people who have experience in running an agency and recognizing talent. So I think he should be cut a little slack on that point.

    I would feel better about him if I knew more about this security background, though. This is a job for someone with a good understanding (though again, doesn't have to be greatest on earth) of cyber threats so he knows what he is looking at. That's the part I'm not reassured about.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Hey, lack of experience (and demonstrated competence) didn't keep Obama from being elected twice. Why should it matter for some minor office holder?

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09

    @Inkling:

    Could be worse. George W. Bush had a demonstrated track record of destroying businesses and requiring bailouts, and HE got elected twice, too. (And did to the country pretty much what he had been doing to every other entity he was associated with throughout his life, come to think of it.) At least people could say they didn't know what to expect from Obama.

  1. Grendelmon

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    No. (How many of my posts to date have been about the government?)


    Fair enough.

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    I bitch about NOAA/NWS because I expect them to get the forecasts right, especially in this day and age, this is 2014.



    What difference does it make regarding what year it is? The same argument could be made five years ago, ten years ago, hell... fifty years ago. I think what you are implying is that technology today seems "so advanced" that forecasting should be perfect by now. Well, you're wrong.

    Back in 2009, the U of Neb researched the accuracy of NOAA's 6-10 day forecasts and found it was accurate about 40% of the time: Accuracy of 6-10 Day Precipitation Forecasts and Its Improvement in the Past Six Years. The accuracy of forecasts also depends on WHERE you live. In any case, the standard 5-day model is obviously much better and gets better year after year.

    If it's any consolation, the Storm Prediction Center (NWS/NCEP) in Norman, OK has severe convective forecasting down to a tee.

  1. jreades

    Junior Member

    Joined: 02-02-99

    @And.reg: how good are you at predicting what you're going to being doing (accurately, not just 'work/home/sleeping') with hourly resolution a week out? And your life is, presumably, something over which you have some level of control?

    Now try predicting what's going to happen three hours out in a system that has billions of inputs, all of which interact via positive and negative feedback loops. I find poor forecasts irritating, but I also recognise that they're trying to model an insanely complex system.

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    What difference does it make regarding what year it is?



    In this day and age? Are you kidding me? This is 2014. There is more than enough available technology to give far better weather forecasts and models and more quickly than 10 years ago. But the forecasts are still inaccurate. This is unacceptable, and I especially shouldn't have to see $500 million every year in taxes (or whatever the figure is these days) thrown away on completely useless "improvements." Nope, I don't see any improvements; if anything I find the quality of weather forecasts has gone DOWN in the last 3 years.

    I completely disagree... how the hell can one say that lack of experience is not important in cybersecurity, especially with all of the technological evolutions?

    Originally Posted by jreadesView Post

    @And.reg: how good are you at predicting what you're going to being doing (accurately, not just 'work/home/sleeping') with hourly resolution a week out?



    Excuse me? You're comparing my life to the distribution of thunderstorms along a cold front? Are you kidding me? How does what I do in a week affect the weather? Of course humans have more freedom than weather systems. Maybe if there weren't so many rednecks giving inaccurate weather forecasts (or posting weather warnings 15 minutes AFTER the thunderstorm passes by... IF they even post anything) for like the 15th time this year we'd be having accurate weather forecasts. Weather is way more predictable than humans so I feel this analogy is completely irrelevant.

    As I said: This is 2014. They should find people with more experience and use better models to do the job right. Meanwhile, the Farmer's Almanac makes weather predictions a whole year out. (Complex system, huh?) Though they're still not much better.

  1. Grendelmon

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 12-26-07

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    In this day and age? Are you kidding me? This is 2014. There is more than enough available technology to give far better weather forecasts and models and more quickly than 10 years ago.



    I rest my case. See my above comment. Again.

    Originally Posted by And.regView Post

    But the forecasts are still inaccurate. This is unacceptable, and I especially shouldn't have to see $500 million every year in taxes (or whatever the figure is these days) thrown away on completely useless "improvements." Nope, I don't see any improvements; if anything I find the quality of weather forecasts has gone DOWN in the last 3 years.



    No point in continuing to argue with your "perception" of value from the National Weather Service. Just switch to the Weather Channel, buddy. Then tell me how much better the private sector performs (hint: not much at all).

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    I rest my case. See my above comment. Again.



    Cool. Now see mine again. 40% is unacceptable.

    (BTW: Weather forecasts out to 4 hours in advance are accurate 90% of the time. Only four hours... that's pathetic. Should be more like 4 days.)

    Originally Posted by GrendelmonView Post

    Just switch to the Weather Channel, buddy. Then tell me how much better the private sector performs (hint: not much at all).



    I grew up watching The Weather Channel. Their forecast quality is no different than NWS/NOAA.

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