Napolitano names senior cybersecurity officials

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that Philip Reitinger, deputy undersecretary of the department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), will also lead DHS’ National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC) – an organization designed to improve cybersecurity coordination across the government's civilian, military and intelligence cyber domains.

A DHS statement released June 1 announcing Reitinger’s new role said it was “a major step toward a cohesive DHS strategy on cyber efforts.”

Napolitano also announced that Bruce McConnell will be counselor to Reitinger and serve as a senior adviser on strategic and policy matters. McConnell previously served on the Obama transition team and was the Office of Management and Budget’s chief of information policy and technology during the Clinton administration.

In addition, Napolitano said Greg Schaffer will be the department’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications. Schaffer will work with industry and international partners to prepare for, prevent and respond to incidents that could damage the country’s strategic cyber and communications infrastructure, DHS said. Until recently, Schaffer held a senior position at Alltel Communications,

Meanwhile, NCSC has become a flashpoint in the debate over how involved the National Security Agency should be in securing civilian networks, a responsibility now held by DHS. Rod Beckström, the center’s first director, resigned in March with a critical letter in which he said he never got the support he needed for the center. Beckström also said NSA effectively controls DHS' cyber initiatives and dominates most national efforts, something he called “a bad strategy on multiple grounds.”

Also, a report released May 29 on the findings of the Obama administration’s 60-day review of cybersecurity policy didn’t specifically deal with questions about the role that NSA would play in cybersecurity programs. However, President Barack Obama said he would follow the report’s recommendation to create a cybersecurity coordinator position at the White House.

The report recommended that the new official continue to evaluate the Bush administration’s Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, under which NCSC was created. Specifically, the report said the new cyber coordinator should “review the operational concept and the implementation of the [NCSC] to determine whether its proposed responsibilities, resource strategy and governance are adequate to enable it to provide the shared situational awareness necessary to support cyber incident response efforts.”

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