In a detailed interview with Federal News Radio this week, Melissa Hathaway spoke about her decision to depart the Administration and what she sees as future moves in the area of cybersecurity.
Hathaway was professional in her remarks. She attributed her departure more to her desire to rebalance her life than to any issues within the Obama Team. Hathaway went from being an important player in the Bush Administration’s Office of the Director of Intelligence to being the center of Obama’s Cybersecurity efforts. She did a superb job hammering out the President’s review of all cyber initiatives, and penned the report released with great fanfare on 29 May of this year.
The report got great press, and all the experts predicted that Hathaway had the inside track for the new Cyber Coordinator’s job on the National Security Staff. She said today that her lack of strong economic credentials knocked her out of the race, given that the Coordinator has to report to Gen. Jim Jones, the National Security Advisor, as well as Dr. Larry Summers, the National Economic Advisor.
Hathaway’s loyalty is commendable. She said that the failure to name a permanent coordinator is not a big problem, and that President Obama does understand the issues at stake. She carefully refused to criticize her old boss or his processes.
Unfortunately, Hathaway is being too kind. The great potential that so many of us saw with the release of the report and its recommendations has been squandered. Instead of naming a coordinator, building a team, and moving forward, several key leaders have actually departed the Administration instead. The President has said nothing significant about cyber issues since the high profile event on 29 May, and little has been done to engage the private sector.
We continue to have conferences where government officials attend, speak, and insist cyber is a major priority … but actions are not backing up those words.
The only bright spots (pointed out by Hathaway) are DoD’s progress in deciding to establish several cyber commands in the services (as a sub-unified command of US Strategic Command) and DHS’s renewed focus on cybersecurity. Unfortunately, much more needs to be done. The Administration needs to exercise the leadership needed and desired by all its sub elements, the private sector, and our international partners.