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U.S. cybersecurity chief Howard Schmidt retiring

The two-time adviser to the U.S. government on cybersecurity is stepping down to spend more time with family, look into teaching, and ride his motorcycle on a trip out West.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
Obama's cybersecurity coordinator, speaking at the RSA Conference in San Francisco two years ago. James Martin/CNET

Howard Schmidt, who was named cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to President Obama in late 2009, is retiring from public service, The White House said today.

"It has been a tremendous honor for me to have served in this role and to have worked with such dedicated and professional colleagues both in the government and private sector," Schmidt said in a statement. "We have made real progress in our efforts to better deal with the risks in cyberspace so, around the world, we can all realize the full benefits that cyberspace brings us."

Schmidt filled a spot that has been tricky during presidential administrations, partly because of a turf war between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency for control over the nation's cybersecurity efforts. He has served in security positions at eBay and Microsoft, and has also worked for the FBI's National Drug Intelligence Center and as a special agent for the Air Force, where he set up the government's first dedicated computer forensics lab.

This wasn't his first job working on cybersecurity for the U.S. government. He was appointed in December 2001 to President Bush's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board and was a deputy to former White House cybersecurity czar Richard Clarke. Schmidt left his post in February 2003 to return to the private sector.

He will be succeeded by Michael Daniel, who worked for 17 years in the Office of Management and Budget's National Security Division and worked the past 10 years on cybersecurity as chief of the Intelligence Branch.

Schmidt plans to ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle west at the end of May, spend more time with family, and look into teaching, according to The Washington Post.

"Howard brought his unmatched experience in business, defense, law enforcement, and privacy to his role as cybersecurity coordinator, and over the past three years his leadership has brought the interagency together to implement effectively the president's direction," said John Brennan, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and counterterrorism. "The president and I are extremely grateful for Howard's tireless work in addressing one of the most serious national security challenges we face as a nation."

Schmidt's departure comes as lawmakers debate the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which opponents worry would allow government agencies to access American's personal information for cybersecurity and law enforcement purposes, as long as Internet and telecommunications companies agreed.