Rhode Island Names First State Cybersecurity Officer

Mike Steinmetz brings a wealth of public- and private-sector experience to the Ocean State, where he will serve as the first cybersecurity officer.

by / April 19, 2017
Rhode Island State Capitol Flickr/Jim Bowen

Rhode Island has hired its first cybersecurity officer in former utility executive Mike Steinmetz, the state said in a Tuesday, April 18 news release.

Steinmetz will serve as Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s principal policy advisor on cybersecurity, and will develop and put into place a comprehensive state cybersecurity strategy. He is also serving as Rhode Island’s homeland security adviser, and according to Providence Business News began work on April 17.

According to the release, Raimondo made the decision “as part of her continuing efforts to foster innovation and economic development opportunities.” But it was also based on a series of eight recommendations in a 2015 report from the Rhode Island Cybersecurity Commission.

The commission, made up of public- and private-sector officials, created an initial action plan for the governor on steps the state could take “to foster the resiliency of state government operations.”

The top recommendation: “Establish a strategic leadership role for cybersecurity that is integrated into the homeland security mission for the state and is directly accountable to the governor.” Commissioners thought it “critical” the post be integrated into the state’s homeland security activities, which it deemed “currently under-developed.”

Modern infrastructure, Raimondo said in a statement, means more than roads and bridges.

“It's also the digital connections we're making faster and more frequently than ever before. In the ever-changing technology ecosystem, it is imperative that Rhode Island stay up to speed" she said in the release. "With valuable assets like the U.S. Naval War College in Newport and a strong defense contractor community, our state is uniquely positioned to improve both the state's security and the state's economy."

The governor added that she looks forward to working with Steinmetz “in his new role to develop a clear strategy to prepare the public and private sectors for the technological challenges of the 21st century.”

Steinmetz, the state pointed out, has spent more than 10 years working on cyber and other security issues across public and private sectors.

Most recently, he was director of strategy and planning and director of governance and compliance in the digital risk and security division at National Grid, a British gas and electric company with operations in the northeastern U.S.

He was previously director of computer network operations at the U.S. Department of Defense, and served as deputy chief of staff for a cyber-related organization at the National Security Agency. Steinmetz is also an Oxford University, Oxford Martin School associate, serving as a member of the school’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre, according to the school’s website.

The state’s new cybersecurity chief said in a statement that he appreciates the governor’s leadership in homeland security and cybersecurity.

“Enhancing our capacity to work together in a dynamic public-private partnership will provide a stronger, more resilient approach to our common security concerns, while supporting innovation and economic growth,” Steinmetz said.