Melissa Hathaway, who had been seen as a top contender for the job of White House cybersecurity coordinator, last week said she is resigning as acting senior director for cyberspace for personal reasons.
Hathaway's resignation is effective Aug. 24.
A former Bush administration aide, she was working as cybercoordination executive for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence when she was appointed to her new role by President Obama in February. At the time, she was directed to conduct a 60-day review of cybersecurity preparedness across the federal government.
Hathaway's highly anticipated review was finished in May and called on government officials to take several steps to bolster cybersecurity. One of the main recommendations was to establish a cybersecurity office within the executive offices of the president to oversee and enforce the development and implementation of a national cybersecurity policy.
As part of her work under the Bush administration, Hathaway headed the multiagency National Cyber Study Group, which was instrumental in developing the multibillion-dollar, highly classified Comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative. The CNCI was approved by then-President Bush in early 2008.
Until she was reassigned by Obama, Hathaway had been in charge of coordinating and monitoring the CNCI's implementation.
Hathaway's sudden resignation raises questions about the delay in naming the new White House cybersecurity coordinator.
Though Obama announced his plans to appoint a White House cybersecurity czar on May 29, when he received Hathaway's report, there has been no indication that he's close to naming anyone to the post. Hathaway's departure could change that.
"Her leaving raises the priority for the president," said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md. As long as Hathaway was around, the need to find someone permanent was less urgent, he said.
John Pescatore, an analyst at Gartner Inc., said that Hathaway probably knew she wasn't going to get the job and decided to be proactive. "She has gotten a lot of visibility, so there will be no shortage of security product and consulting firms that she can go and work for," he added.
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