Reitinger Resigns Top DHS Cybersecurity Post

Deputy Undersecretary Undecided About His Future

By , May 19, 2011.
Reitinger Resigns Top DHS Cybersecurity Post

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eputy Undersecretary Philip Reitinger, who as the top cybersecurity executive at the Department of Homeland Security often served as the face of the Obama administration on IT security matters, is resigning effective June 3.

A new deputy undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate hasn't been selected. Greg Schaffer, DHS assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, will serve as acting deputy undersecretary. Bobbie Stempfley, deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, will fill in for Schaffer.

Reitinger, in an e-mail message to DHS employees, said the timing was right to leave. "With significant progress having been made in activities across NPPD, with growing recognition of DHS's roles and authorities, and the cybersecurity legislative proposal now delivered to the Hill, it's a logical point for me to leave the Department of Homeland Security and allow the team that we have developed together to carry our initiatives forward," Reitinger wrote.

The announcement of Reitinger's resignation comes days after the Obama administration announced two major cybersecurity initiatives: an international cyberspace strategy (see White House Unveils Int'l Cybersecurity Strategy ) and a cybersecurity legislative package (see White House Unveils Cybersecurity Legislative Agenda). The legislative package would codify DHS's increased authority in overseeing civilian government IT security in the Obama administration.

Citing executive privilege, top White House cybersecurity officials such as Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt would not testify before congressional panels. Often, the administration sent Reitinger to articulate the administration's views on cybersecurity at congressional hearings.

The chairman of one of those panels, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, credited Reitinger as being instrumental in building DHS's cyber capabilities and developing an excellent leadership team. "The department has made tremendous strides in its cyber capabilities over the past few years, and Phil's energy and expertise will be missed," said Lieberman, ID-Conn.

Reitinger's boss, Undersecretary Rand Beers, characterized Reitinger's departure as a great loss. "His leadership, intellectual rigor, enthusiasm and commitment to the mission and the people of NPPD have been a central feature in making our organization better," Beers said in an e-mail to directorate employees.

In late March, under Reitinger's leadership, DHS issued a white paper (see DHS Envisions a Healthy Cyber Ecosystem) that explores technical options for creating a more secure and resilient Internet. "Unless people really start to really pay attention to the threat and how we need to drive fundamental change, we're in a world that is going get worse from day to day and month to month and year to year," Reitinger said in an interview with GovInfoSecurity.com (see Reitinger's Quest: Build a Safer Internet). "And, we're going to be in a place eventually where your television is going to complain that it's being attacked by your refrigerator and isn't able to operate anymore. None of us wants to live that world."

In his e-mail, Reitinger said he hasn't decided what he'll do next. "I have young children and I have spent less time with them over the past few years than I would like," he said. "I intend to spend a lot of time with my family over the summer, and in the course of that decide how I can best play a role in advancing infrastructure protection and cybersecurity."

Before joining DHS in 2009, Reitinger served as Microsoft's chief trustworthy infrastructure strategist, responsible for helping improve the protection and security of the critical information technology infrastructure. At that job, he worked closely with government agencies and private partners on cybersecurity protection programs to build trustworthy computing systems worldwide.

While at Microsoft, he served as a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency National Advisory Council, advising the FEMA administrator on aspects of cybersecurity related to emergency management. FEMA is a unit of DHS.

Follow Eric Chabrow on Twitter: @GovInfoSecurity

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