We all know that President Obama has a lot on his plate right now.  He is still trying to get the economy moving, North Korea is being troublesome, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan grind on, and of course there is the contentious Heath Care Reform debate.  As a citizen, I am sympathetic to the President’s plight, as a cyber security specialist, I am running out of patience.

The promise was made during the campaign that cyber security would be a priority.  Melissa Hathaway was kept on by the new administration to do an informed and thorough review in 60 days.  We all applauded.  Ms. Hathaway and a very small team worked for 60 days straight, with no days off to produce the review, and turned it in on schedule.  Then the trouble began.  The President had other issues, and the review languished in the White House while the President’s advisors haggled over the words and for whom the promised Cyber Coordinator would work.  We began to worry.  Finally, on the 29th of May, the review was released with a full Presidential public statement and endorsement.  Our worries seemed to have been misplaced.

Well, May 29th seems a long time ago.  Not only do we not yet have a Cyber Coordinator (Will everyone please stop calling the position the “Cyber Czar”, it will be anything but!), but Melissa Hathaway has quietly resigned from the government, as has Mischel Kwon, the Director of US-CERT.  These two are on top of Rod Beckstrom’s (Director of the National Cyber Security Center) earlier departure.  There is still a debate inside the Executive branch as to who is in charge of cyber security (NSA, DHS, DoJ, DNI).  This just has to stop, and that can only be done by leadership.

There are competent people coming in behind these stalwarts folks from the previous administration, but there seems to be a bad current running here.  Instead of gaining ground on this pervasive problem that is plaguing our economy, society, and security, we seem to be losing it.  We must reverse the trend.

President Obama is clearly one of the most tech savvy leaders we have ever had.  He understands the magnitude of the problem.  He is the rock star of American government right now, however if he is not personally pushing an issue, it appears that nothing moves forward.   That should change; it must change.  No man, even one as talented as President Obama can personally address every problem.  Others in the government must pick up the slack and begin to work the issue of Cyber Security.

Perhaps Health Care Reform and the Economy are bigger issues than cyber security.  My concern is what the effect will be on our health care system or the economy if an adversary conducts a massive cyber attack that cripples several banks and the stock markets, or takes control of the electrical grid that runs our hospitals, or corrupts the medical information system that guides proper treatments.  If we do not improve our security, the benefits of any reforms could be short lived.

Cyber Security cannot languish on the back burner.  With respect Mr. President, you either need to direct someone to deal with this issue in your stead, or re-engage as soon as possible.  Everyday we waste in distraction allows our enemies to gain more ground.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More