By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 8, 2009
A top operational official in charge of protecting civilian government computer networks has resigned, dealing another blow to the federal effort to enhance cybersecurity.
Mischel Kwon, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, submitted her resignation letter this week. "Moving on is a hard step for me, but one I must take," she said, according to the letter obtained by The Washington Post.
Kwon, who is the fourth US-CERT director in five years, was frustrated by bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of authority to fulfill her mission, according to colleagues who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Her departure follows the resignation of the lead White House cybersecurity official, Melissa E. Hathaway, who said last week that she would step down.
In March, another Homeland Security cybersecurity official, Rod Beckstrom, resigned, citing a lack of support inside the agency and what he described as a power grab by the National Security Agency.
The resignations, although unrelated, point to a larger inability of the federal government to hire, retain and effectively utilize qualified personnel, experts said. Two months after President Obama pledged to "personally" select someone to be the White House's cybersecurity coordinator, the position remains unfilled.
On Friday, Phil Reitinger, director of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Center, said in a statement that the administration "has made cybersecurity a top priority."
Amit Yoran, chief executive of NetWitness, a consulting firm, and US-CERT's first director, said Kwon would be "sorely missed in government."
"It's a shame to lose her talent from public service at this critical time," Yoran said.
In her letter, Kwon states that she would like her last day to be Sept. 2. She is expected to take a position in the private sector.