Mr. Shapiro said the issue continued to be “a major priority for the president,” who was “personally committed to finding the right person” for the new cybersecurity job. “A rigorous selection process is well under way,” he concluded.
Some former officials say they understand why it might be taking so long.
Mr. Beckstrom said Ms. Hathaway “was incredibly hard driving” in her work for both the Bush administration when she led cybersecurity for the director of national intelligence and the current one. “It was a heavy lift to get consensus across all of the departments and agencies,” he said. “The rules, regulations and processes necessary to get new things created require inordinate amounts of time.”
Mr. Beckstrom also hinted that turf battles and internecine conflict made such jobs harder.
“Given that cyber is a high stakes game within the government, given its strategic nature, even greater pressure is placed upon the actors because of competing interdepartmental equities,” he concluded.
Officials acknowledge the complexity of the problems but say they are working to resolve them.
“When I came into the department, I think it’s fair to say we were not organized sufficiently where cybersecurity is concerned,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week.
“Just as these efforts were kind of spread throughout the federal government, they were kind of spread throughout the Department of Homeland Security.”
But Ms. Napolitano added that she had centralized the department’s cybersecurity efforts under one official, Philip Reitinger, a deputy undersecretary in Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate.
“If the question is who at the Department of Homeland Security … do you call” about cybersecurity issues, “it’s either going to be Phil or someone who works for him.”