Facing down our newest cyberthreat. Really?

Department of Homeland's new mantra (or whine): Stay the course. But there's a reason why critics are increasingly fed up with the glacial progress on cybersecurity.

What really drives me crazy about our government--and it applies to Republicans and Democrats alike--is the blithe insouciance of empowered apparatchiks who run their respective fiefdoms as if they have all the time in the world to get things done.

DHS boss Michael Chertoff Charles Cooper/CNET News

When the president proposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, supporters of the idea predicted that among other things, it would spur a vigorous drive to rebuild the nation's cybersecurity. Yes, it would be part of a huge bureaucracy, but just think of the outcome by combining such a reservoir of talents and resources under one roof. The skeptics were less sure, warning this project had all the makings of a bureaucratic clustermuck.

Now we know which side was right.

Members of the bipartisan Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency earlier this month criticized the agency as being unprepared to combat a increasing range of cyberattacks. The best solution, they argued, was to move responsibility for the nation's cybersecurity elsewhere.

And so how has DHS responded to the challenge? By going the PR route.

Under the authorship of one Robert D. Jamison, described as Under Secretary National Protection & Programs, DHS has rejected the calls as ill-considered.

"A reorganization of roles and responsibilities is the worst thing that could be done to improve our nation's security posture against very real and increasingly sophisticated cyber threats," he wrote in a blog posting. Jamison finished with a flourish that must have warmed the cockles of his boss' heart with a firm declaration of resolve.

"We have a plan and are on a path that will address these serious national cyber vulnerabilities. We must stay the course."

This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to tear out what's left of my hair. Jamison may be a well-intentioned bureaucrat who wants to see this through to completion. But the fact is that DHS is taking forever to get the job done. When he swung through San Francisco a few months ago, DHS director Michael Chertoff offered all the right sounding phrases about cybersecurity, nothing more.

To be fair to Chertoff, he does have a few big action items on his agenda, such as securing the physical safety of Americans against terror attacks. But cybersecurity has been left on the departmental back burner for so long that only a major attack would be enough to push it front and center.

But the evidence from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and other watchdog groups is beyond contestation: The DHS remains far from fulfilling its charge to shore up the nation's critical infrastructure. So how much longer will they need before making good on the promise? You have to wonder.

All I can say is that if you had entrusted the Normandy invasion to this crowd, they'd be speaking German in France today.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Looking for an affordable tablet?

CNET rounds up high-quality tablets that won't break your wallet.