Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 1, 2006

DHS struggles to fill cybersecurity post

Filed under: Infrastructure Protection — by Christian Beckner on March 1, 2006

In the Senate HSGAC hearing today, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) asked Sec. Chertoff why DHS had yet to fill the assistant secretary position for cybersecurity. From the hearing transcript:

Bennett: Senator Warner talked to you about cyber security. As you know, that’s an area I’ve been very concerned about. And I was pleased with the announcement of the creation of the position of the assistant secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications, but I’m unhappy that that position hasn’t been filled. Do you — can you share anything with the committee as to where you are in trying to find that particular individual?

Chertoff: I can tell you that I’m unhappy it hasn’t been filled. We are talking to a number of people. I’ve talked to a number of people. Some have chosen not to be candidates because, frankly, the amount of money you can make in the private sector makes what we can pay pale by comparison.

Bennett: Yes, particularly in this discipline. I understand that.

Chertoff: But we do have some people we are pursuing because I do think it’s important that we fill this. And in particular, it’s important we fill it because we can see the position actually unifies IT and telecommunications, and I think that recognizes a convergence of those two elements in real life, which I think is an important step to consider.

CQ reported a few days ago on this topic as well, noting that “Chertoff appears to have made a concerted effort to fill the position permanently” and “Industry, administration and Capitol Hill sources confirm that several candidates have interviewed for the job but have all been rejected.” The article also suggests that political litmus tests may be partially responsible for this delay:

“Some of the people who were considered — one or two well-regarded by experts in the private sector — for unknown reasons disappeared,” says California Democrat Zoe Lofgren , who closely tracks tech issues for her Silicon Valley House district. “We don’t need a political hack, but that’s what tends to occur in this department.”

The article also indicates something a pitched battle between the telecom and IT/tech sectors over who gets this job (which has authority over both areas), with the respective sectors wanting one of their own in the position.

Hopefully we’ll get a nominee soon. It’s now been 7 1/2 months since the position was announced.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 2, 2006 @ 4:00 am

Actually the job has no authority over either the IT or telecome industry sectors. Pay is not the issue but the actual responsibility. Chertoff is not able or willing to ask for regulatory or standard setting authority so the job is largely hortatory (sic). Even the potentially significant transfer of the NCS (National Communications System) E.O. 12674 to DHS has not been maximized by DHS. The result is nothing really happens and no one wants DHS in the cybersecurity or telecome world except for expensive acquisition of systems that support the department but end up with no real deliverables that are of long term utility.
DHS could do analysis and disclosure of defective efforts by the cyber and telecom industry but that is unlikely to happen. If there is no will there is no way.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Hearing chides DHS cybersecurity efforts

July 28, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

[…] The problem isn’t just the salary, as I’ve noted previously. There’s no good reason to apply a political litmus test to a technoratic position. ….Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity post has remained a low- to mid-level position ever since Congress passed a 2002 law that melded 22 federal agencies and made the department chiefly responsible for protecting cyberspace. Numerous audits have faulted the sprawling cabinet department for its lack of readiness to handle large-scale attacks and for shortcomings on its internal networks. […]

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