President names former adviser to head cyber commission

President Barack Obama has named his former national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to chair the cybersecurity commission he announced last week.

President Barack Obama has named his former national security adviser, Tom Donilon, to chair the cybersecurity commission he announced last week.

Obama also appointed former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano as the vice chair, a statement from the White House said, announcing a meeting of the three men for Wednesday afternoon.

The Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity was established by executive order last week as one of a series of executive actions the president took associated with his fiscal year 2017 budget request. It will spend the remainder of the year coming up with recommendations on actions that can be taken over the next decade to enhance cybersecurity awareness and protections in both the public and private sector.  

“This is going to be a big agenda, a long term agenda that is extremely complicated and extremely technical and is going to require us to overhaul a bunch of legacy systems that are already in place,” Obama said after the meeting. 


Twelve members will make up the full panel, with four members to be appointed Congress — one by the leader of each party in each chamber. 

Donilon served as national security adviser from 2010 to 2013. Palmisano worked at IBM nearly 40 years, serving as CEO from 2003 to 2011. 

“As a former national security adviser and close advisor to the president, Donilon has a deep knowledge of the cyber threat environment; great knowledge of the government’s national security departments and processes; and is one of the nation’s most experienced policy analysts and managers,” said a White House official, who chose to speak on background. 

“Palmisano is one of the nation’s most experienced private sector technology executives, and is a great business leader, innovator, and problem solver. The president expects both of these men to bring these experiences to bear and set the country on a path to ensuring cybersecurity over the next decade.” 

The commission is one part of the president’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, a sprawling agenda that combines executive orders, new government positions and budget requests to improve the country’s digital security. 


The president, who expects the report no later than Dec. 1, said the commission will give ideas on everything from protection of federal government databases to better security for various commercial sectors, like the electrical grid or financial institutions. 

“We’re confident that this is going to be the kind of product that is of great importance to everybody, and this is not an ideological issue that should divide Washington on party lines,” Obama said. “This is something that everybody’s got an interest in making better.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will also serve an advisory role on the commission, according to Obama. 

Shaun Waterman

Written by Shaun Waterman

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