When an employer hires someone for a specific job, it's usually because that person has a good knowledge of that field. However, when that job is the cybersecurity co-coordinator for the White House, no such knowledge or expertise is necessary.
Would you want your heart surgeon to have no surgical experience? Would you be comfortable with your hairdresser never having cut hair before? Would you feel safe if someone with no building construction experience built your house?
The answer to all the above is probably no, but the White House feels confident that Michael Daniel, who recently claimed to know nothing about cybersecurity, can handle cybersecurity threats to the White House.
Recently, Daniel bragged about how his lack of technical expertise makes him even better at his job. He explained that he did not need coding experience for doing his job.
"Being too down in the weeds at the technical level could actually be a little bit of a distraction," says Daniel. "You can get enamored with the very detailed aspects of some of the technical solutions."
Although he may have a point, he also explained that understanding the economics and psychology behind cybersecurity is the bigger challenge.
"Intruders get in through those holes that we know about that we could fix," he says. "The question is 'Why don't we do that?'"
Most would argue that if Daniel knew more about cybersecurity, he might understand the complexities of plugging those security holes and how difficult it often is. Also, in most other areas of government, expertise is generally required.
Even Princeton's Ed Felton tweeted that the reaction of an Attorney General being appointed without any legal expertise would cause an uproar. He's probably right: the surgeon general and the head of the CDC both have medical degrees. Those serving on the Council of Economic Advisors and the head of the Federal Reserve have PHDs in economics.
Daniels graduated from Princeton in 1992 with a degree in public policy. After that, he attended Harvard and got his masters. His previous job experience includes being a research assistant for a think tank in Atlanta, as well as a program examiner for the military. He has no educational or work experience with cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is quickly becoming an important issue for the United States, Recently, Chinese hackers accessed nearly five million files from the health care industry. However, hackers are targeting everything from the nation's 911 system to banks to electrical power grids.
Most Americans might sleep safer if they knew that these security issues were handled by someone who knew something about them. Only time will tell if Michael Daniel is really up to the task of working with something he admittedly knows nothing about.