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Brief: New Cybersecurity Chief Must Deliver Results

Former IT lobbyist fills a job left open for 14 months

It's put up or shut up time at the Department of Homeland Security.

Fourteen months after Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security secretary, created the position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications, he filled the job, naming Gregory Garcia, VP for information security policy at the Information Technology Association of America, the IT industry's chief lobbying group.

The long vacancy left the Bush administration open to criticism that cybersecurity is a neglected stepchild to physical security in anti-terrorism. Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, told a congressional committee last week that the leadership vacuum left an unclear, uncoordinated strategy. "People responsible for securing information technology in the government and the private sector would be hard-pressed to identify the top DHS priorities," he said.

The administration hasn't ignored cybersecurity, says George Foresman, DHS undersecretary for preparedness, adding that he spent one-fourth his time on the issue. But he says Garcia will intensify the focus. His priority will be setting milestones for key goals such as preparing for a large-scale cyberdisaster, partnering with the private sector, and fostering a culture of preparedness. "I don't believe in churn," Foresman says. "I believe in tangible actions and deadlines." We hope the wait was worth it.

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