Experts: Expect slow progress on IT overhaul next year

Campaign officials from both parties say financial crisis will force transition teams to focus first on economic positions.

Representatives from both presidential campaigns today highlighted a series of cybersecurity challenges that the next administration will face, from overhauling personal ID technology to terror watch lists to privacy and data security. But some warned the financial crisis will force the transition team to focus first on filling top economic positions.

Comment on this article in The Forum.At an event sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America, former FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle -- an adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- warned "the process will be slow" for the government when it comes to addressing complex problems like high-tech security. And given the focus on the economy, it will be difficult bringing attention to cybersecurity and information management, even though IT networks are "the nervous system of our commerce system," he added. He said both campaigns have advisers who are very serious about crafting meaningful policies in that area.

An official from the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Ohio State University professor Peter Swire, addressed the need to tackle what he deemed the "ID divide." Swire, who served as former President Clinton's privacy adviser, said millions of voting-age citizens lack driver's licenses or official identification and may be improperly put on government watch lists. He echoed calls from a recent Center for American Progress report, which he co-authored, calling for the creation of forward-thinking principles for ID systems that go beyond debates over terrorism.

Former Senate Commerce Committee counsel Paul Martino, now an attorney at Alston & Bird, said the onus was on Congress to change its IT outlook in a new administration. "What we need for better authentication is actually more information about consumers, not less," he said. "Government needs it, business needs it... but a number of initiatives on the Hill right now are about restricting use of that information." He also argued that progress on a comprehensive privacy and data security package is unlikely because of the topic's complexity. Several sessions of Congress have tried to craft legislation to override a patchwork of state laws, but it has "died under its own weight," he said.