David Hickton, the founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security, is taking a leave of absence from Pitt to play a critical role in overseeing how trillions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funding are spent.
Hickton (LAW ’81), who previously was U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, has been named staff director and senior counsel to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, a bipartisan panel created by a House vote on April 23. “Its purpose is to ensure that the over $2 trillion that Congress has dedicated to this battle—and any additional funds Congress provides in future legislation—are spent wisely and effectively,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her initial announcement of the committee’s formation.
“David Hickton’s record as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania demonstrates some unique abilities to identify and weed out fraud and abuse,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn, chair of the select subcommittee. “His broad background and experiences will help the select committee protect the extraordinary and unprecedented outlay of taxpayer money as Congress continues to fight this pandemic and its economic consequences. We owe it to all Americans to ensure that funds are spent effectively, efficiently and equitably. David Hickton’s record has drawn praise from leaders on all sides of the political spectrum. I am grateful that he has agreed to serve the nation again at this critical moment in this very important role.”
“I have watched and admired the principled leadership of Chairman Clyburn for many years,” said Hickton. “When he offered me the opportunity to help do this important work for the American people, I could not say no.”
Hickton’s new appointment builds on a strong track record of distinguished public service. During his six years as U.S. Attorney, he was involved in many high-priority investigations, including the misuse of educational funding that led to the prosecution of those involved. He also co-chaired a national Heroin Task Force to address the opioid epidemic, and exposed nation-state hacking by the Chinese and Russian governments. At Pitt Cyber, Hickton has continued that leadership, commanding the charge to expose and explore key subjects like election security and Russian hacking.
“Responding to the coronavirus crisis—and supporting communities and families across America—is one of the most urgent and important tasks facing our nation today,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Dave is the consummate public servant. With his unyielding commitment to integrity, collaboration and ingenuity, it’s clear why he has been called to serve his country again and at this time of great need.”
Beth Schwanke, executive director of Pitt Cyber, will lead the institute in Hickton’s absence. She has served in that role since 2017, the year Pitt Cyber was established. Previously, she was senior policy counsel and director of policy outreach for the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.