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Trump To Appoint New Chief Information Officer In Cyber Push

Trump To Appoint New Chief Information Officer In Cyber Push

Last Friday, the White House announced that President Trump plans to nominate Suzette Kent to serve as federal chief information officer (CIO) in his administration, the official that “develops and provides direction in the use of Internet-based technologies.”

The appointment comes at long last, as the position of CIO (officially known as “administrator of the Office of Electronic Government, Office of Management and Budget”) has been vacant for over a year. The last official to man the post of CIO was Tony Scott, who was appointed in 2015 by President Obama and stepped down on January 17, 2017.

Kent has an interesting background. She studied journalism in the 80’s at Louisiana State University but later moved into financial services. For the past several years she filled executive positions at big-name firms including Accenture and J.P. Morgan. Kent will be leaving her current job at Ernst and Young to take up her post in the administration.

The White House extolled Kent as "an industry leader of large-scale business transformation using technology, for the world's most complex organizations." She also apparently has a solid history of promoting “diversity, inclusiveness, and career development at every organization in which she has worked,” and that’s all very well and good.

But there’s a point that should be taken away from Kent’s appointment, and how it reflects on Trump’s broader policy agendas.

With all of the unprecedented controversy Donald Trump has brought to American politics, one thing you have to hand to the man: He takes information security seriously. Filling the role of CIO is an important step in shoring up the technology and digital management gap that both the administration has been trying to address since the earliest days of Trump becoming president. This is a big plus for a chief executive occupying the Oval Office at a time when cyber and other forms of digital security are quickly becoming the dominant national defense concerns.

Trump has a pretty good track record of appointments and organizational development when it comes to cyber. One of Trump’s early initiatives as president was to establish US Cybercom, elevating the military’s cyber assets to the level of a full unified command. More recently Trump nominated Kirstjen Nielsen to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security in October. Nielson’s background is in cybersecurity, having formerly been a member of the prestigious Resilience Task Force of the Center for Cyber & Homeland Security committee at George Washington University. In fact, Nielsen was originally slated to be undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), the Homeland Security wing responsible for digital infrastructure. Nielson’s appoint to head the whole Department reflected just how important the role cyber plays in broader national security policy.

Looking ahead, it was recently announced that Trump plans to appoint another cyber expert to head the National Security Agency (NSA). Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of the Army’s digital warfare branch, will likely be the next head of the NSA following the expected retirement of current director Adm. Mike Rogers in the coming months.

With all of these appointments, the administration is signaling the centrality of cyber to its overall national security strategy. An expert on national security, these days means expertise in IT security.

This is all very good. May the trend continue.