Why No Cybersecurity Coordinator, Yet

Melissa Hathaway Gives Her Take on Why the Post Remains Vacant

By , December 7, 2009.
Why No Cybersecurity Coordinator, Yet


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he need to have experience in not only cyber and national security but a deep understanding of economics sharply limits the pool of candidates qualified to be the White House cybersecurity coordinator, and could explain why the job remain vacant more than a half year after President Obama proposed it.

"There are just not that many people who have that kind of resume and have the experience within government and within the private sector that is going to be necessary to help really lead both the government and the private sector forward as what is needed for the president," said Melissa Hathaway, who led Obama's 60-day cybersecurity policy review earlier this year and whose report helped shape the job description of the cybersecurity coordinator, who would report to the heads of the National Security Council and the National Economic Council.

In an interview with GovInfoSecurity.com (transcript below), Hathaway addresses the potential hard not having a cybersecurity coordinator presents.

"Certainly, if there was a champion and an advocate within the government right now that could be out more aggressively working with the private sector, that that would be helpful to galvanize things," she said. "Certainly, we don't have the momentum that we could currently."

Among the topics Hathaway addresses in the second of a two-part interview with GovInfoSecurity.com's Eric Chabrow:

  • Cybersecurity Coordinator: Why she thinks Sen. Susan Collins, R.-Maine, is wrong is proposing the senior cybersecurity adviser be placed in the Department of Homeland Security and not the White House.

  • International Cybersecurity Collaboration: The international nature of the Internet and a global economy means the United States cannot act alone to secure information assets.

  • E-commerce and Online Banking: "It's important to have better credentialing and authentication of customers online in order to assure the security with banking and e-commerce broadly."

In Part 1 of the interview (click here), Hathaway said government and business must think creatively to help safeguard America's digital assets. She also addressed the critical posture of cybersecurity in the United States, the importance of government and private-sector collaboration on cybersecurity and the need to use the government's massive purchasing power to require security-ready IT wares.

President Obama in February named Hathaway White House acting senior director of cybersecurity and assigned her to lead a wide-ranging, interagency review the government's cybersecurity plans and activities. Her review resulted in the administration's cybersecurity policy agenda the president unveiled in May.

She resigned her White House job in August, and shortly thereafter started the consultancy, Hathaway Global Strategies, and this fall joined the Belfer Center for Science and International Affair at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government as a senior adviser.

Hathaway is a protégé of retired Adm. Mike McConnell, who served until earlier this year as the National Intelligence director. Under McConnell, Hathaway served as a senior advisor and cyber coordination executive. She chaired the National Cyber Study Group, contributing to the development of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. That led to her appointment as director of the Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force in January 2008. At the business consultancy Booz Allen, where she first worked with McConnell, Hathaway served as a cybersecurity strategist, leading the information operations and long-range strategy and policy support business units.

Hathaway holds a BA from American University and a special certificate in information operations at the U.S. Armed Force Staff College.

ERIC CHABROW: You're a senior adviser at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. How does collaborating internationally benefit the security of America's critical IT systems?

MELISSA HATHAWAY: There are more than 20 different international bodies that are designing and/or voting for the next generation standards for the technology. And principal to that is the UN International Telecommunications Union, and secondarily to that would be the ICANN Internet Governance Forum or the Internet Engineering Task Force. One is treaty-based ,International Telecommunications Union of the UN, and the other one is really voluntary based or sort of grass roots, and if you don't participate in the standards making then you won't necessarily to be able to have your technology sold on the front lines or across all of the different borders, and that is what actually allows us to be interoperable internationally across the standards.

Follow Eric Chabrow on Twitter: @GovInfoSecurity

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