The director of the National Cyber Security Center, Rod Beckstrom, has resigned. Beckstrom, a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley and author of several books, quit his position as security czar after less than one year on the job, sending a resignation letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. His last day will be March 13.
The former chairman and CEO of CATS Software and author of The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, took on his new role on March 7, 2008, and reported to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff before a battle for control ensued. The serial entrepreneur was reportedly new to government relations.
As director of the National Cyber Security Center, Beckstrom was responsible for facilitating information sharing and collaboration between organizations in the federal government that were responsible for cybersecurity. He led efforts to communicate and protect information across multiple government domains, ultimately protecting the government's computers and network from a cyberattack.
Beckstrom stated several reasons for his resignation and pointed out problems during his time as director. One issue was a lack of support from the Bush administration, a lack of funding due to roadblocks from the Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Homeland Security control by the National Security Agency.
"NSA currently dominates most national cyber efforts," Beckstrom wrote in his letter, published in full by The Wall Street Journal. "While acknowledging the critical importance of NSA to our intelligence efforts, I believe this is a bad strategy on multiple grounds."
Beckstrom said he was "unwilling to subjugate the NCSC underneath the NSA" as director of the NCSC. Instead, the security expert pushed for a model of civilian government cybersecurity capability not controlled by the NSA.
Beckstrom's role in the private sector may have gotten in the way of his position in the federal government because he was seen as an outsider with no experience in government, a source told The Washington Post.
Under his leadership, the NCSC accomplished several goals, according to Beckstrom, including completing the agency's operational concept and implementation plan with both cabinet-level and presidential approval. Beckstrom and his team also formed the NCSC Coordination Council, supported the Department of Defense in forming its Web 2.0 cyberplatform, and created the National Cyber Center to bring together local and state governments.
One of his more significant accomplishments at the NCSC is a new economic model that can be used to develop policies for deterrence.
Beckstrom spent many years before joining the NCSC starting companies. His first company was formed in a garage apartment when he was just 24. That company grew into a global business with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, and Sydney. CATS Software went public and was then sold.
After CATS, Beckstrom cofounded Mergent Systems, which was later sold to Commerce One for $200 million. Not long after, the serial entrepreneur cofounded TWiki.net, a support company for an open-source wiki system.
The entrepreneur may have been passionate about business, but he also had his hands in several nonprofit groups and initiatives, including a peace network of CEOs, which focused on diplomatic efforts between Pakistan and India and led to opening borders to citizens.
It's unclear where Beckstrom will land next and whether it will be in the private sector, working for a nonprofit, or back in a government position. One thing that is clear, however, is Beckstrom's last statement to Napolitano: "It has been an honor to serve our federal government and I look forward to returning some day."
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