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By Jimmy H. Koo
Former White House staffer and free market-believer Thomas P. Bossert will address cybersecurity as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, President-elect Donald Trump announced Dec. 27.
It appears from Bossert’s statement included in Trump’s announcement that U.S. companies may not be facing any dramatic increase in government involvement in their cybersecurity preparedness planning. But some analysts told Bloomberg BNA it is too soon to tell what cybersecurity policies Trump and Bossert may implement.
Bossert, who formerly worked as the deputy homeland security advisor in the administration of President George W. Bush, said “we must work toward cyber doctrine that reflects the wisdom of free markets, private competition and the important but limited role of government in establishing and enforcing the rule of law, honoring the rights of personal property, the benefits of free and fair trade and the fundamental principles of liberty.”
Stephen Heifetz, an international business partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, said “it will take some time before we’ll have a sense of cybersecurity policy in the Trump administration.” Bossert’s statement doesn’t “suggest that any particular policy choices have been made,” he said.
Trump said Bossert’s position would be equal in status to his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, and independent of the national security adviser chain of command. The duties of the position are carried out in the Obama administration by a deputy national security adviser, Trump said.
Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center advocacy group, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 27 that “cybersecurity is one of the central challenges facing the U.S.” He said that it is “critical” that Bossert focuses on the threat.
Stewart Baker, cybersecurity partner at Steptoe & Johnston LLP Washington, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 27 that Bossert is “an experienced and public-spirited counterterrorism official, and his appointment bodes well for homeland security policy in the Trump administration.” Baker, who also served as the Department of Homeland Security’s first assistant policy secretary, said that he knows Bossert “well and worked closely with him in and out of government.” Bossert's statement “reflects the values he has always brought to his work, whether in the White House or later,” Baker said.
Edward J. McAndrew, a cybersecurity partner at Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 27 that “based on his time in the Bush Administration, Bossert is undoubtedly very experienced and well qualified on homeland security and counterterrorism issues.”
Heifetz agreed. Bossert “has substantive national security experience from his time as a Bush administration official, and that’s certainly helpful,” he told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 27.
McAndrew said that in terms of cybersecurity threats, " virtually everything has changed” since Bossert was last in government.
Since 2009, Bossert has led a national security consulting business and served as a cybersecurity fellow at the U.S. Atlantic Council.
In Trump’s announcement, Frances F. Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, expressed “every confidence” in Bossert’s “capacity and insight needed to take on the tough challenges facing the country.”
“Let’s hope he is up to the task of securing cyberspace and the physical homeland, while respecting the privacy rights and values of all Americans and the billions of people outside of America who use the internet as a positive, transformative platform,” McAndrew said.
In his new position, Bossert will advise Trump on issues related to cybersecurity, homeland security and counterterrorism, and also coordinate the process for creating and executing relevant policies, the announcement said.
During the presidential campaign, Trump framed cybersecurity not as a stand-alone issue, but as an element in ensuring national security, economic security and addressing conflicts with other countries. The 2015 Republican Party platform identified cyberattacks against U.S. businesses, institutions and government agencies as a “routine” problem, and suggested going on offense to deter cybersecurity threats.
Rotenberg said that there is a “centralized concern of data protection.” Cyberattacks are “directed to the personal data of U.S. consumers, citizens and internet users,” he said. “The incoming administration should make data protection a top priority,” he said.
Bossert received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and his law degree from the George Washington University Law School.
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