Yoran quits DHS

Amit Yoran, the Homeland Security Department's cybersecurity chief, abruptly resigned Sept. 30, saying that he has accomplished his goals for the job, which he had for a year.

In an interview with Federal Computer Week, Yoran declined to characterize the reasons he was leaving his post as director of DHS' National Cyber Security Division. But others said he had become frustrated with his inability to "move the ball forward."

"The department made some meaningful progress and built a startup -- that is no trivial activity," Yoran said. "We've hired some fantastic expertise. We've achieved our primary objectives."

Although some observers have said Yoran had become frustrated with a perceived lack of authority, Yoran declined to say that. "Working in the government or working in the private sector in any large organization has its unique set of challenges and opportunities," he said. "If other people are frustrated, if other people have concerns, that's fine. Let them express that."

Although Yoran has no immediate plans, the former vice president of managed security services at Symantec Corp., said he is not hunting for a job. He said he intends to spend some time doing charitable work with a local university to develop a center for children with disabilities.

His twins, born three months ago, are healthy. Yoran said their births were "one of the things that changes and evolves thinking and perspective."

Many officials in industry and government have expressed concern that Bush administration officials positioned Yoran too far down in the DHS structure to accomplish the goals of improving security in the public and private sectors. But Yoran said the job belongs at DHS, not at any other government agency.

"The department is where cybersecurity belongs," he said.

"Amit Yoran has been a valuable contributor on cybersecurity issues to the department in the last year, and we have greatly appreciated his efforts in helping to get the division up and running," said Katie Mynster, a spokeswoman for the department.

DHS officials have not yet identified an acting director or made a decision on whether they'll seek a permanent replacement from within government or from the private sector, she said.

Many expected that Yoran would not be in the position much longer than a year, but "I'm very pleased that Amit interrupted his life to take on this difficult position," said Howard Schmidt, former cybersecurity advisor to the Bush administration, who helped implement the National Strategy for Securing Cyberspace.

With the increasing debate about whether the head of cybersecurity should be raised within the DHS hierarchy or whether it should even stay within the department, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and other leaders have an opportunity start fresh, Schmidt said.

Yoran's departure should not affect the work that the division is doing, including a meeting next week between department officials and industry leaders to make sure that the cooperation on cybersecurity issues is on track, he said. "There's a whole bunch of people there that have been career government employees who have been working hard at this and who will keep things going," Schmidt said.

-- Diane Frank contributed to this article.

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