Infosec chief USA: White House appoints first chief information security officer

9 Sep 2016

The first-ever chief information security officer at the White House will be charged with bolstering the US government’s digital defences

The White House has named retired Air Force Brigadier General Gregory Touhill as the United States’ first-ever chief information security officer, charged with bolstering the US government’s digital defences.

The position was created earlier this year as part of a $19bn Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP), unveiled by President Barack Obama as a means of overhauling US cyber security in the wake of a litany of embarrassing breaches that saw everything from the theft of taxpayers’ data to the hacking of the CIA chief’s email.

It also follows high-profile attacks on the systems of Sony Pictures, Anthem and Target.

‘Strong cybersecurity depends on robust policies, secure networks and systems and, importantly, a cadre of highly skilled cybersecurity talent’

Future Human

President Obama, in his fiscal 2017 budget proposal, asked for $19bn for cybersecurity safety across the US government, up $5bn from the 2016 figure.

The plan will include $3.1bn allotted for technology modernisation at various federal agencies.

It also includes $62m for education programmes to address the dire shortage of cybersecurity professionals, including a CyberCorps Reserve programme that will give students cybersecurity scholarships in exchange for several years of government service.

Cyber master chief of America

Touhill currently serves at the Department of Homeland Security as deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications.

In his new role, he will report to the CIO of the White House, Tony Scott.

“A key feature of the CNAP is creation of the first CISO to drive cybersecurity policy, planning and implementation across the Federal Government,” Scott said in a statement.

“In his new role as Federal CISO, [Touhill] will leverage his considerable experience in managing a range of complex and diverse technical solutions at scale with his strong knowledge of both civilian and military best practices, capabilities, and human capital training, development and retention strategies.

“[Touhill] will lead a strong team within OMB [the Office of Management and Budget], who have been at the forefront of driving policy and implementation of leading cyber practices across federal agencies, and is the team that conducts periodic cyberstat reviews with federal agencies to ensure that implementation plans are effective and achieve the desired outcomes.”

Scott added: “Strong cybersecurity depends on robust policies, secure networks and systems and, importantly, a cadre of highly skilled cybersecurity talent. Building on the Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy to identify, recruit, and retain top talent, the CISO will play a central role in helping to ensure the right set of policies, strategies, and practices are adopted across agencies, and keeping the Federal Government at the leading edge of 21st-century cybersecurity.”

White House image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years