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.