US' homeland security czar says little but has done much

The United States' new homeland security czar is low-profile and unassuming, but has been a key figure with a long track record of focusing on two issues of increasing importance: cyber security and natural disasters.

 Pennsylvania-born Tom Bossert, Mr Donald Trump's pick for homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, "has a handle on the complexity of homeland security, counterterrorism, and cyber security challenges", Mr Trump said in a statement on his nomination - which does not need Congressional approval.

 Mr Bossert, said to be in his 40s, is an establishment pick. He worked as an adviser in the George W. Bush administration, writing a report on lessons learnt from the Hurricane Katrina disaster which struck the city of New Orleans in 2005. In 2007, he helped to write an update to the federal government's National Strategy for Homeland Security - which included a focus on natural disasters.

He also spent two years as director of infrastructure protection policy, a role in the White House that focused on the security of the US' critical infrastructure. He is also president of Civil Defence Solutions, a private risk management consultancy.

He studied law at The George Washington University Law School and also did a BA in political science and economics at the University of Pittsburgh, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mr Tom Bossert has White House experience, think-tank experience and private-sector consultancy experience, says a security analyst, who asked to be unnamed.

In recent years, Mr Bossert has worked on the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think-tank where he is a senior fellow. The council says the initiative focuses on international cooperation, competition and conflict in cyberspace. One of the main initiatives is called the Cyber 9/12 Project, which explores how governments and private industries should respond the day after a major cyber calamity - events some have termed "Cyber 9/11" or "Digital Pearl Harbour". 

Mr Bossert highlighted cyber security as a priority in his new job, saying in a statement that the US "must work towards cyber doctrine that reflects the wisdom of free markets, private competition and the important but limited role of government in establishing and enforcing the rule of law, honouring the rights of personal property, the benefits of free and fair trade, and the fundamental principles of liberty".

 The appointment puts him on a par with national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn, a former general.

"Tom Bossert will bring crucial experience to deal with pressing cyber and terror threats," Dr Patrick Cronin, senior director at the Centre for a New American Security, told The Straits Times in an e-mail.

But for all this, Mr Bossert has been low-profile. Unlike some of Mr Trump's other picks, he does not appear to be driven by conspiracy theories, Islamophobia or Sinophobia. He did support the US invasion of Iraq though, which Mr Trump has said was a mistake.  

His appointment has drawn bipartisan praise. Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin, from Rhode Island, founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, told The New York Times that Mr Bossert had approached the issues of cyber threats in a "centrist, bipartisan" manner.

He has White House experience, think-tank experience and private-sector consultancy experience, said a security analyst, who asked to be unnamed.

Mr Bossert has said little since his nomination. He has fewer than 600 Twitter followers and, unlike his future boss, he tweets sparingly. "He's not the provocative type," the analyst said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2017, with the headline 'US' homeland security czar says little but has done much'. Print Edition | Subscribe