EDITORIAL: White House cybermistakes

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

Monday’s resignation of White House cybersecurity adviser Melissa Hathaway was another reminder that President Obama’s cyberpolicy is lost in space.

Mr. Obama broadly outlined his cybersecurity plan and creation of a cyberczar May 29 following a policy review led by Ms. Hathaway. The White House has yet to fill the post, likely because the power is limited for any one official to coordinate the disparate federal agencies involved.

Ms. Hathaway, a George W. Bush administration holdover, largely was sidelined by Obama administration officials after arguing that the cyberczar should have direct access to the president. This would ensure power to coordinate federal policy. National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers, National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones Jr. and John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism, fought to protect their turf. The czar will report to both the National Security Agency and NEC.

No one seems to know exactly what the czar will actually oversee. Legislation pending in the Senate would make the Department of Commerce — an agency with no significant cybersecurity expertise — the clearinghouse for information the Department of Homeland Security already is supposed to handle. The NSA and many industry interests are quietly fighting this pointless transfer of power between agencies that would add another layer to the federal government’s ability to respond.

The federal response is muddled with redundant efforts. Following coordinated attacks on U.S. government and private-sector Web sites over the July 4 weekend, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV asked 11 federal agencies to report on their cybersecurity preparedness. Such issues already had been covered in the White House review. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is asking critical infrastructure industries about their view as part of her Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. These industries already provide an annual update to Homeland Security about threats to their sectors.

Government officials appear more interested in writing new reports and redesigning things from the ground up than actually solving problems. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and repeating existing analysis, they need to focus on a coordinated multiagency response.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts