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Another senior cyber official has resigned and I hear few encouraging noises from the cyber warriors I speak with at the Pentagon in the wake of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ decision to create a cyber command. They worry that fundamental policy issues have still not been addressed, leaving the military uncertain what actions it can reasonably expect to take in the event of conflict.
Much of this worry may derive with the fairly timid report issued by the administration about how it would handle offensive and defense cyber issues. Kevin Coleman has the rest of the story.
Mischel Kwon has resigned as director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team in the Department of Homeland Security. She was the fourth U.S. CERT director in five years. It is believed she will remain in authority until Sept. 2. This comes at a particularly interesting time. The same day she resigned, Phil Reitinger, the director of the National Cyber Security Center at DHS, said in a statement that the administration “has made cyber security a top priority.” One article stated that Kwon had become frustrated by bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of authority to fulfill her mission.
Kwon’s resignation follows that of Rod Beckstrom who resigned back in March. He claimed the lack of support inside the agency and what he described as a power grab by the National Security Agency were the reasons for his departure.
Earlier this week Melissa Hathaway, who was regarded as one of the top cyber advisor to the White House recently resigned as well. So why did she resign? Good question and a question that Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a senior ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, wants answered. Collins has requested that her staff members interview Hathaway regarding why she is leaving. Hathaway would only site personal reasons for her resignation which is effective August 24th.
That being said Hathaway reportedly noted in her comments that it has been two months since President Obama made a highly publicized speech stating the importance of cyber security. Hathaway has been quoted as saying “I wasn’t willing to continue to wait any longer, because I’m not empowered right now to continue to drive the change.”
These resignations highlight a much larger problem, it shows the inability of the federal government to hire and retain qualified cyber security leaders. Two months after President Obama pledged to “personally” select someone to be the White House’s cyber security coordinator (AKA Cyber Czar), the position remains unfilled. He said that it was time the country had one official to coordinate against likely future attacks on the nation’s technological infrastructure. One report by Government Info Security says that about 30 people have been considered for the job and yet the position remains unfilled.
Why no takers? What do they know that we don’t? The nation’s security is actually at risk and not having a cyber czar doesn’t help. The continued churn has other concerning implications that point to a much bigger issue.