The White House has named former air force general and top Department of Homeland Security cyber official Gregory Touhill as the first federal chief information security officer (CISO) in order to bolster the country's digital defences against cybercriminals. The position was first announced by the Obama administration in February as part of a $19bn Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) to improve the "cybersecurity posture within the Federal Government and across the country" through IT investments and cybersecurity talent recruitment.
Currently a deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications within the Department of Homeland Security, Touhill will report to federal chief information officer Tony Scott and will begin his new role later in September, according to a source familiar with the matter, Reuters reports.
"In his new role as Federal CISO, Greg will leverage his considerable experience in managing a range of complex and diverse technical solutions at scale with his strong knowledge of both civilian and military best practices, capabilities, and human capital training, development and retention strategies," Scott and White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel wrote in a blog post announcing the appointment.
"Greg will lead a strong team within OMB who have been at the forefront of driving policy and implementation of leading cyber practices across federal agencies, and is the team that conducts periodic cyberstat reviews with federal agencies to insure that implementation plans are effective and achieve the desired outcomes."
After joining the military over three decades ago, Touhill has led teams at the Air Force's Central Command, the Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and the US embassy in Kuwait.
Touhill's appointment is also a political one, which means he may only serve briefly in the position if Obama's successor chooses to replace Touhill after being sworn in next January.
The government has also appointed Grant Schneider, director for cybersecurity policy on the White House's National Security Council, as Touhill's acting deputy CISCO.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama said the US possesses the world's most formidable cyber-arsenal with "more capacity than anybody, both offensively and defensively". In July, the White House put the FBI in charge of responding to any cyberattack targeting the government, major US organisations or companies, under a new directive approved by Obama.
The appointment, which comes towards the end of Obama's second term, also follows a rise in cyberattacks targeting the country of late including the much-publicised hack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which multiple cybersecurity experts said could be linked to the Russian government - allegations that the Kremlin has strongly denied. Cybersecurity officials and experts have also expressed serious concerns that the US election system could be susceptible to cyberattacks in an attempt to influence the results.