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Cybersecurity Official Resigns Over Delays in Appointment

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 4, 2009; A03

The White House's senior aide on cybersecurity has decided to resign following delays in the appointment of a coordinator to spearhead the government's efforts to protect the nation's computer networks.

Melissa E. Hathaway, who also served as a cybersecurity aide during the Bush administration, had been a contender for the position of cybersecurity coordinator. But in an interview Monday, she said she had withdrawn her application.

"I wasn't willing to continue to wait any longer, because I'm not empowered right now to continue to drive the change," she said. "I've concluded that I can do more now from a different role," most likely in the private sector.

Hathaway noted that it has been two months since President Obama made a highly acclaimed speech on the importance of cybersecurity and pledged to "personally" select a cybersecurity coordinator.

A colleague close to Hathaway said she had become dismayed by the delay in the appointment. The colleague, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Hathaway had "the sense that this was very political, that she has been too closely tied to the Bush administration."

Industry officials have voiced frustration at the White House's inability to fill the job. One former government official said 30 people have been interviewed for the position.

Under Obama, the cybersecurity coordinator will be responsible for working with Congress to help fund a new national cybersecurity strategy and to align policies among civilian, military and intelligence agencies.

Hathaway was recruited in 2007 by then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to work on cybersecurity issues. She played a key role in overseeing the Bush administration's Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), which consisted of 12 mostly classified projects to improve the defense of government computer networks.

"We've made a lot of progress in the last 30 months that I've been in government, and now it's time to move on," Hathaway said, adding that she was proud of having completed the White House 60-day review of cyber policies and programs. "It's up to the administration to take the next step."

Hathaway said her last day will be Aug. 21.

"Melissa should be commended for the excellent work she did in pulling together the CNCI under President Bush," said Paul Kurtz, a cybersecurity official in the Clinton and Bush administrations and an Obama transition team member. "She should also be commended for taking on the 60-day report for a brand new administration."

Ellen McCarthy, president of the nonprofit Intelligence and National Security Alliance, said: "Whether she's in the government or out of the government, we need to keep her as part of the dialogue."

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