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9/26/2011
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Homeland Security Revamps Cyber Arm

National Protection and Programs Directorate will add a new deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and shift other non-cybersecurity responsibilities onto another official.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
The National Protection and Programs Directorate, the Department of Homeland Security agency that handles many of the government's cybersecurity responsibilities is about to get a makeover in the wake of the departure of former deputy undersecretary Phil Reitinger. The directorate, among other things, is in works to secure federal civilian agency networks and coordinate cybersecurity with the private sector.

In an email obtained by InformationWeek, DHS undersecretary Rand Beers announced to staff that, in response to "the growing importance of cybersecurity to DHS and the nation as a whole," DHS is splitting Reitinger's former job in two. DHS will now have one new deputy undersecretary position that exclusively deals with cybersecurity and another that helps protect critical infrastructure, secures federal facilities, and the manages the US-VISIT biometric identity management system used to identify and track foreign visitors.

Beers wrote that the agency would "shortly" announce the name of the permanent deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity, but in the interim, Greg Schaffer, a former Alltel and PricewaterhouseCoopers exec who had been Reitinger's second-in-command since 2009, will serve as acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity.

[ The federal government is seeking help in fighting cyber criminals. Read: Feds Seek Advice To Battle Botnets ]

The DHS has taken on a growing role in cybersecurity over the last several years. "This position will help the directorate ensure robust operations and strengthened partnerships in the constantly evolving field of cybersecurity," Beers wrote in the email, the authenticity of which was confirmed by a DHS spokesman.

Whoever takes the new position will have to deal with significant recent turnover in top leadership. In addition to the departure of Reitinger, Sean McGurk, the former director of DHS' National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, left his post effective last Friday, and Randy Vickers, former director of the United States Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT), abruptly resigned in July.

In managing US-VISIT, facilities security, and DHS' work with critical infrastructure sectors, the other new deputy undersecretary job, to be filled by long-time intelligence community and congressional staffer Suzanne Spaulding, will continue to have IT-related responsibilities.

Spaulding, who will join DHS in October, was most recently a principal for the Bingham Consulting Group. Spaulding has served as senior counsel to former Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., a top staffer for both the House of Representatives' and Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency, and a member of numerous government commissions on national security issues.

In the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Government: As federal agencies close data centers, they must drive up utilization of their remaining systems. That requires a well-conceived virtualization strategy. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.