The Bush administration has named four candidates to fill top homeland and national security positions after a protracted effort to fill the top White House counterterrorism post, left open since January.
Frances Fragos Townsend announced her resignation last November as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. In that position, Townsend also served as chair of the White House Homeland Security Council. News reports surfaced that known figures, such as retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, former CENTCOM Commander, and Adm. (Ret.) James Loy, former Coast Guard Commandant and Deputy Homeland Security Secretary, turned down offers by the White House to succeed Townsend. With one year left in this term, it is hard to blame them for declining to return to government service on that note. Townsend’s former deputy, Joel Bagnal, a former Army colonel, has served in an Acting position since her departure and according to those I’ve spoken with, he maintains a great deal of respect in the interagency.
On Wednesday, the President nominated Kenneth Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, to replace Frances Townsend at the White House. Townesend came from the Department of Justice, and Wainstein seems to fit the mold of stalwart Administration supporter and institutional insider that would serve Townsend’s successor well. Since the position is not Senate confirmed, his prickly relationship with the Senate Judiciary Committee is unlikely to be an issue. Wainstein’s main responsibility at this point, barring any attack on the homeland in the meantime, will be to shepherd a transition to the next Presidential administration.
Chief CT Advisor – Leiter
Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Scott Redd stepped down as director of the National Counterterrorism Center last October for health reasons. The post went officially unfilled until this week when the White House announced that the President is nominating Michael Leiter to become succeed VADM Redd. Leiter is well respected in the intel community and has served since Redd’s departure as Acting Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Cyber Czars Named – Beckstrom, Charbo
The president announced a multi-agency cybersecurity initiative late last year after the director at the National Cyber Security Division, Amit Yoran, resigned in October 2007. The job was previously a White House position held by Howard Schmidt and Richard Clarke.
Four months later, President Bush picked Scott Charbo as Deputy Undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at DHS, primarily in charge of the Department’s cybersecurity mission. It seems Charbo will have two roles: combating attacks on U.S. cyber netrworks and weathering attacks from the House Homeland Security Committee. Chairman Thompson is not a fan.
As part of the Administration’s recently announced Cyber Initiative, DHS is responsible for leading federal efforts to protect government networks against cyber-associated threat. Beckstrom is the co-founder of the open-source wiki software system, TWIKI.net, founder of Cats Software, and author of The Starfish And the Spider, which is about the advent of leaderless, decentralized organizations and the power of networks (both human and electronic).