- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

The homeland security official charged with the complex task of cataloguing the nation’s potential terrorist targets and working out which are most at risk announced yesterday that he was stepping down.

Frank Libutti, the undersecretary for information analysis and infrastructure protection, is the latest in a lengthening line of senior officials to announce their departure from the troubled department since Secretary Tom Ridge said at the beginning of the month that he was leaving.

Department spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich said Mr. Libutti will leave Feb. 1, or as soon as a replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Ridge’s scheduled departure is also Feb. 1.

Miss Petrovich said Mr. Libutti was leaving to spend more time with his family and had no future career plans.

“He is keeping all his options open,” she said.

Mr. Libutti, a charismatic Vietnam combat veteran and retired Marine Corps general with an aggressive public-speaking style and a penchant for sartorial flare, brought a unique style to the post.

At a now-storied presentation for private-sector executives, he stunned delegates by mounting the stage to the strains of the theme song from “Rocky” and then proceeding to perform one-armed push-ups.

But the Marine-turned-police officer sometimes had his work cut out for him in Congress, where the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate he headed was the element of the department that faced the most glaring scrutiny and harshest criticism.

“Things haven’t gone well there,” said one private-sector executive who has had extensive dealings with the department. The executive added that some officials are frustrated by the pace of work on the gargantuan task of cataloguing the nation’s hundreds of thousands of potential terror targets and integrating the data with intelligence about terrorist plans.

John Gannon, the staff director for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, added that the directorate’s information-analysis operation was “one of the biggest challenges” for officials at the department.

“Congressional oversight is likely to be aggressive on the department’s intelligence role,” Mr. Gannon said in a recent interview.

The department, Mr. Gannon said, needs resources and connectivity with the intelligence community.

Deputy Secretary Jim Loy announced his departure earlier this week. Mr. Loy is slated to leave March 1. So did Sue Mencer, who oversees the department’s grants programs, as well as its relations to first responders and state and local governments.

And others might flee the department. The executive said both of Mr. Libutti’s principal deputies — Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis Pat Hughes and his counterpart, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Robert Liscouski — want to leave.

Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security, has been widely considered a candidate to replace Mr. Ridge. However, it has been reported that Mr. Hutchinson was ready to leave after the nomination of Bernard Kerik to start a run for governor of Arkansas.

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