Tech industry speculates about candidates for security jobs

With the law to create a Homeland Security Department now on the books, high-tech lobbyists have begun speculating about who will be chosen to fill key technology leadership positions within the new Cabinet-level agency.

High-tech companies are particularly interested in three homeland security leaders who will shape policy and who could influence the selection of agency vendors: the undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection, the undersecretary for science and technology, and the chief information officer (CIO). All three people who will fill those jobs likely will be known by Jan. 24, the effective date for creating the department.

The Senate must confirm both undersecretaries but not the CIO.

"The White House will want to fill a number of jobs quickly," said Mario Correa, director of Internet and network security policy at the Business Software Alliance. "The chief position for us is the undersecretary of analysis ... under whose rubric cybersecurity would fall, and the undersecretary of science and technology, who would oversee homeland security research and development. The CIO will also be very critical because we presume the person will be key in making sure of agencies' cross-information-sharing capabilities."

High-tech lobbyists said the potential candidates for undersecretary of information analysis include: White House cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke; Ronald Dick, director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center; Ken Juster, head of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security; Howard Schmidt, co-chairman of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board; and John Tritak, head of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office.

Some sources said Maryland Republican Constance Morella, who lost her House re-election bid, is under consideration to be undersecretary of science and technology. She has a strong interest in research and development and a relationship with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from her many years representing NIST's home district.

Steve Cooper, currently CIO of the White House Office of Homeland Security, is the likely candidate to become the department's CIO, many observers said. He has been working on building information systems that can communicate across agencies.

At a high-tech conference last week, Cooper said the administration plans to quickly build an "interstate communications expressway" among the federal government, state and local governments and the private sector to enhance homeland security.

Plans to build a new connecting network may be music to the ears of numerous companies that have expanded their lobbying efforts in Washington into homeland security. According to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonprofit Web site that tracks federal election filings, more than 444 lobby registrations now list "terror" or "security" as interests, and that number is likely to increase.

"You have the largest department in the nation being set up and ... so you'll see a lot of companies continuing to build their representation of folks that are dealing with homeland security," said Shannon Kellogg, vice president for information security at the Information Technology Association of America.