Yesterday I posted about the two-month anniversary of the May 29 announcement by the White House regarding the creation of the Cyber Czar position and the subsequent lack of progress in finding someone to fill that position. The proverbial plot thickened that afternoon when it was announced that Melissa Hathaway, acting cyberspace director for the White House National Security and Homeland Security councils, had resigned from her post.
I do not know Ms. Hathaway nor do I claim to be close to the process of selecting the Cyber Czar, so at best what I can do is engage in a well worn tradition here in the Washington D.C. area and speculate. Numerous reports have said that Ms. Hathaway was interested in the role as she was the lead in creating the Cyberspace Policy Review that defined this new position. In my view, logic and reason would indicate that if she were going to be the Cyber Czar they would have appointed her at the announcement in May rather than have this uncomfortable and undefined gap we are living with today. So while reports say she withdrew her name two weeks ago, I suspect that the realization that she was not the administration’s choice came much earlier. Regardless, the work done on the review was broad and extensive, and she should be recognized for helping to move the dialogue about IT security forward. I wish her the best in her new endeavors.
I am hopeful that Ms. Hathaway’s departure is an indication that the administration is close to having a name for the position and her exit was designed to make the transition more seamless. I do not question her stated motives, but having her voluntarily leave prior to the announcement of the cyber czar makes for a much cleaner transition for the President and eliminates the need to orchestrate what could have been an awkward departure. If the administration is not close to having a candidate, then her resignation will likely have the effect of forcing the administration to accelerate the process as her departure eliminates the safety net that existed with her in the role, albeit as a lame duck. Or we are faced with the third scenario that the administration is really not that committed to cyber security and that all of this has been fanfare and flag waving with no real sense of urgency. I sincerely hope that this is not the case, but the administration can only blame itself for creating lingering doubts with the two months of post-May 29 silence.
The next several days should be telling. If the administration indeed has their person for the job, then I suspect they will give the Hathaway resignation a couple of days to recede from the public consciousness and then make the announcement. Or we will go back to the awkward silence that, in my opinion, shouts volumes. Let us hope this marks the way forward.