Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 28, 2006

A cybersecurity conflict-of-interest at DHS?

Filed under: DHS News — by Christian Beckner on June 28, 2006

From the AP tonight:

The Bush administration’s cybersecurity chief is a contract employee who earns $577,000 under an agreement with a private university that does extensive business with the federal office he manages.

Donald “Andy” Purdy Jr. has been acting director of the Homeland Security Department’s National Cyber Security Division for 21 months. His two-year contract with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has drawn attention from members of Congress. By comparison, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, is paid $175,000 annually.

Purdy is on loan from the school to the government, which is paying nearly all his salary. Meanwhile, Purdy’s cybersecurity division has paid Carnegie Mellon $19 million in contracts this year, almost one-fifth of the unit’s total budget.

Purdy said he has not been involved in discussions of his office’s business deals with the school. “I’m very sensitive to those kinds of requirements,” Purdy said. “It’s not like Carnegie Mellon has ever said to me, ‘We want to do this or that. We want more money.’ “

What’s most galling about this story to me isn’t the potential conflict-of-interest. I have no reason to believe that Purdy has done anything inappropriate. But what gets me is the fact that it’s been almost a year since Sec. Chertoff announced the creation of a position for an assistant secretary for cybersecurity, and DHS has yet to nominate anyone to fill the position full-time. This outcome is a bad deal for the American people. As this story points out, it’s a bad deal for taxpayers, and it also means that the office lacks the authority that it needs to carry out the cybersecurity mission.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

June 29, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

I think in truth the issue identified in drafting PD 63 to try and respond to the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection report in fall 1997 is the stumbling block. How do you deal with the infrastructure that is in private hands that is in reality a national asset in a crisis when you have no authority to set standards or regulate. The notion that doing business creates responsibilities as well as rights is too much for the “Free Market” idealogs. As a result, all of S. Korea has broadband but we sure are a long way off from that in the northern neck of Virginia. Instead of pragmatism, we may well die as a national based on artificial mythology such as the perfection of a “Free Market.” It was fun to watch DOD and IRS get knocked out of action by a minor storm. That is what happens when you build in a flood plain with underground river systems. Perhaps some of the federal critical infrastructure should be relocated out of the seat of government. By the way I notice that DHS is not a “Sue or be Sued” department like most of the others. So largely immune from judicial review for its discretionary acts or failure to act, it also is completely unable to protect itself from the vendor vultures. Back to critical infrastructure protection, I believe it is now part of the Preparedness Directorate yet none of George Foresman’s speeches today and few of Chertoff’s address CIP!

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » The Second-Stage Review, one year later

July 13, 2006 @ 12:08 am

[…] 3. Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity. The 2SR factsheet announced that DHS would create a new Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Telecommunications position – an idea cheered by the IT community. One year later, as the Washington Post noted yesterday, no one has been nominated to fill this slot. Just two weeks ago, it was reported that acting director Andy Purdy makes $577,000/year through an arrangement with Carnegie Mellon University – more than triple Chertoff’s salary. The failure to find someone to fill this job leaves me shaking my head in bewilderment. […]

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