After Only 12 Months, Another U.S. Cyber-chief Resigns
Complaining that the National Security Agency exerts too much influence on
national cyber-security policy, Rod Beckstrom, head of the U.S. National Cyber
Security Center, resigned March 6. Beckstrom, a Silicon Valley
entrepreneur, follows a line of national cyber-security chiefs with short
Beckstrom, who is best known for founding Twiki.net and for his book on the power of decentralized organizations, agreed in March 2008 to manage a new National Cyber Security Center established at the Department of Homeland Security and reporting directly to then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.
"NSA currently dominates most national cyber-efforts. While acknowledging the critical importance of NSA to our intelligence efforts, I believe this is a bad strategy on multiple grounds," Beckstrom wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano the day before his resignation.
Beckstrom said in his letter to Napolitano that during his one-year tenure he had been unwilling to "subjugate the NCSC underneath the NSA. Instead we advocated a model where there is credible civilian government cyber-security which interfaces with, but is not controlled by, the NSA."
Beckstrom further complained that the Bush administration failed to adequately fund the NCSC, providing funding for only five weeks of operation during the past year.
Greg Garcia, Howard Schmidt, Richard Clarke and Amit Yoran are among the cyber-security chiefs who have passed through the government's revolving door.
President Obama has requested $355 million in cyber-security funding for the government's 2010 budget. Obama ordered his National Security and Homeland Security advisors Feb. 9 to conduct an immediate review of the government's cyber-security plans, programs, and activities. Heading the 60-day review will be Melissa Hathaway, who served as the cyber-security coordinator executive under Mike McConnell, former President Bush's Director of National Intelligence.
Hathaway was also named a senior director at the National Security Council and numerous media accounts have mentioned her as a top candidate to serve as Obama's cyber-security chief. A former Booz Allen consultant, Hathaway led a group that developed Bush's National Cyber Security Initiative.
Phil Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software and a 30-year player in the cyber-security field, praised Obama's decision to review the government's cyber-security efforts.
"It is a great idea. The United States has no coordinated cyber-warfare policy," Lieberman said. "Although the previous administration was vocal about its wishes to protect the 'homeland,' its scope was limited to only kinetic attacks. The move by this administration to finally address cyber-attacks is a welcome evolution and a sign that this administration 'gets it' from a technological perspective."
Lieberman said existing laws and legal precedents leave the United States vulnerable to repeated cyber-attacks.
"The U.S. government intelligence agencies and military have been prepared to defend the U.S.A. from cyber-attack for the last 20 years, but the previous administration was clueless when it came to technology and science," Lieberman said. "So, as a result, those that were capable of defending us were kept on the sidelines while we are being attacked."