Department of Homeland Security officials hope to announce as early as this week the name of the person who will head the departments National Cyber Security Division.
The identity of the candidate is still under wraps as the White House finishes its background checks, sources said.
When the announcement comes, the new NCSD chief will be stepping directly into the line of fire. This summers rash of worms and e-mail viruses has focused attention on weaknesses in the software that runs most of the computers on the Internet. The NCSD was set up to help enterprises and the government anticipate and respond to such threats.
Many security experts and industry observers have been critical of the government for allowing the NCSD job to remain unfilled for so long, especially at a time when a central authority to coordinate federal information security efforts is needed.
"Theres been absolutely no movement on this. Its been a very odd process," said Alan Paller, research director at The SANS Institute, based in Bethesda, Md.
DHS officials said they submitted the candidates name to the White House for approval several weeks ago and are waiting for a response. "The name is still at the White House, and were still waiting for word," said David Wray, spokesman for the DHS, in Washington. "Were talking to the White House daily about this."
Government sources said the DHS hopes to have the NCSD chief in place by the beginning of next month. But the start date could be somewhat later, depending on when the White House gives its approval to the candidate.
Once on the job, the new head of NCSD will have the task of integrating the information security assets of nearly a half-dozen government agencies, many with a history of poor communications.