The Department of Homeland Security has had a rough couple of weeks trying to weather its adolescent troubles with cybersecurity. The agency's current director of its National Cybersecurity Division, Amit Yoran, upped and left after a little over a year at the post. Industry insiders were quick to claim that he had left because he didn't have enough clout to do his job. However, Yoran did not stress the charge himself, sidestepping the issue by saying he "never advocated" a higher position for cybersecurity.
The calls for elevating cybersecurity to a political dukedom rather than a barony may just be the industry feeling self-important. While the information component of the nation's infrastructure may be the most important, the question should be whether the DHS can handle the issues with its current organization.
Robert Liscouski, the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection, has a good grounding in information technology, as he formerly kept Coca-Cola safe as the Director of Information Assurance. However, Frank Libutti, the UnderSecretary of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection and Liscouski's boss, has mainly military training--reaching the rank of General in the U.S. Marine Corps--and served in the Department of Defense as an adviser on Homeland Security. The issue is whether an important threat highlighted by the Director of the NSCD will get adequately communicated through Liscouski to Libutti and eventually to Secretary Tom Ridge.
There seems to be a feeling that that particular game of telephone tag won't do. During a speech to the industry this week, Ridge said he would support an assistant secretary for cybersecurity, placing the position on par with Liscouski's fiefdom. Yet, a day later, the DHS backed off.
While only the DHS can know if they have solved the information problems highlighted by Sept. 11, such "flip-flops" seem to indicate some recognition of the problem. In the end, the proposal has been pushed by legislators and industry alike, so it may only be a matter of time.