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Another war front where the strategy is to dither

So, we now know the date-certain for defeat in Afghanistan thanks to the West Point session President Teleprompter held a couple of days ago. I haven’t seen Vegas’ over/under for the number of innocents slaughtered in Afghanistan in 2011 but they’re coming I’m sure. In the meantime, The One’s dithering on another war front. It’s invisible to most of us, but it’s just as real and more immediately dangerous to ordinary Americans than the Taliban’s activities.

We’ve heard a lot in the recent past about the vulnerability of our nation’s infrastructure — roads, railroads, utilities, ports, airports and so forth– to attack, both physical and electronic. Some of you may also be aware that China, especially, and to a lesser extent North Korea, have made probing attacks against the electronic infrastructure that binds our economy, and in the case of the electric power grid, our homes, together. There’s a thing lurking just over the horizon called ‘the smart grid‘ that’s been under development for some time now. Briefly the idea is that by intelligently deploying full fledged computers, chips, and custom software throughout the grid, we can more efficiently deliver electricity to the ultimate point of consumption, build fewer power plants, let government snoops into your home network and cut pollution among many supposed benefits. The internet, the ‘network of networks’ comprised of business, personal, academic and governmental computer networks, will at some point almost assuredly become so closely intertwined with the electricity transmission network (not that it perhaps isn’t already) and then the smart grid eventually, so as to render them indistinguishable. That makes for one fat juicy target, one that’s already been attacked both in the US and elsewhere. Forget suitcase nukes– try to imagine the havoc wrought by shutting off the entire electric grid in a city like Chicago. (Another reason to avoid O’Hare, as though one were needed.)

But never fear, The One is on the job. Recognizing our vulnerabilities, T.O. did what he does best– made an announcement. The computer industry press is just as susceptible to TLS (Tingling Leg Syndrome or Matthews Disease) as anyone else so it dutifully reported how important T.O.’s May announcement of a cybersecurity initiative was because “… the largest benefit of Friday’s announcement was that Obama lent his name to the fight against cybercrime.” Some years ago I lent my name to the fight for the two day workweek but we can all see how that turned out.

Obama announced that he will appoint a national cybersecurity coordinator, who will report directly to the president, and the U.S. government will collaborate with private groups to create a comprehensive national cybersecurity policy. The White House will also designate cybersecurity as a key management initiative and develop metrics for measuring improvements, Obama said.

Is there anything sexier than a czar? Listen, I’ve worked in the computer industry for more than 30 years and I can tell you that calling something a “key management initiative” and developing “metrics” to measure “improvements” is the corporate version of a politician calling for a Blue Ribbon Commission. Not a meaningful thing will be done.

And six months later, as always, T.O. hasn’t disappointed. Today I came across the headline ‘Cybersecurity efforts stalled as Obama eyes Afghanistan’. What’s been accomplished so far? Same as Afghanistan– nothing. No czar, no nothing. I guess navel gazing for an alleged strategy for the Afghan war took up so much time it didn’t leave any for navel gazing his way into a cybersecurity strategy either.

Wasn’t it President Teleprompter that lectured Senator McCain during the campaign about the need for someone who could manage more than one crisis at a time? Too bad this is Onion satire and not real; the only thing wrong I guess is he didn’t take Joe and Nancy with him, but, so it goes. My point here is, one of these days, the lights are likely to blink out on you and it’s not going to be because some drunk ran into the power pole down on your corner.

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