Arthur W. Coviello Jr., chief executive of RSA Security Inc., said yesterday that Liscouski "did not focus enough on cyber-security during his tenure, and his resignation provides a window for the administration and the new secretary to get it right." President Bush yesterday nominated former Justice Department prosecutor Michael Chertoff to replace Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who announced his resignation last month.
F. William Conner, chief executive of Entrust Inc., another technology-security company, said that the nation lost valuable time during Liscouski's watch.
Robert Liscouski is stepping down to join a Reston firm.
___ Guide ___ Personal Preparedness Guide
Dirty bombs, anthrax and smallpox: an informative guide to understanding the threat and protecting you and your family.
"The outside world is moving very fast, and we have not been able to keep ahead of the threats," Conner said.
Liscouski responded by referring to a number of cyber-security programs developed under his tenure.
"The private sector has a responsibility for doing most of the things we laid out in the strategy, but what we've seen is a lot of people from industry who are saying the government has to do more but are unwilling to define what they themselves need to do," Liscouski said.
In a written statement, Ridge praised Liscouski for providing "a solid foundation for protecting our nation's critical infrastructure, and this department will benefit from his efforts for years to come."
William F. Pelgrin, director of cyber-security for the state of New York, credits Liscouski for working with state law enforcement to create a 49-state network to share information on physical and cyber-security threats.
Technology executives supported legislation that would have elevated the cyber-security division head to the level of assistant secretary.
Congress appeared ready to do that as part of the intelligence bill last month, but the provision was removed from the bill after lobbying by Liscouski and other administration officials.
Many experts and executives also supported giving the cyber-division authority over the national telecommunications infrastructure, which carries Internet traffic.
Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a cyber-security office was part of the White House. The decision to move it to the Homeland Security Department was regarded by many in the technology industry as downgrading cyber-security's importance by the Bush administration.
James A. Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said many people in the administration thought that before the creation of the department there was an over-emphasis on computer security issues and not enough focus on protecting other parts of the nation's infrastructure.
"That's a legitimate policy debate to have, but unfortunately it was clouded by internal bureaucratic politics and turf fights," Lewis said.
Brian Krebs is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.