Top DHS Cybersecurity Official Quits

Phil Reitinger, deputy undersecretary of the agency's National Protection and Programs Directorate, will leave his position June 3.
Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
Mere days after the White House released comprehensive plans for creating cybersecurity policy, the Department of Homeland Security's top policymaker for cybersecurity efforts said he's leaving his post.

Phil Reitinger, deputy undersecretary in DHS's National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), has resigned and will depart the agency June 3, according to an email he sent to DHS NPPD employees that was obtained by InformationWeek.

He did not mention whether the cybersecurity policy proposal the White House released last Friday influenced his departure, but said the delivery of that plan to Capitol Hill marked a good time for his exit.

The plan to overhaul the nation's cybersecurity laws includes new provisions to solidify privacy protection, data breach reporting, critical infrastructure protection, and the security of federal government systems. It's an attempt by the Obama administration to get comprehensive cybersecurity legislation through Congress, an effort that--although there are numerous bills before both chambers--has so far been unsuccessful.

"With significant progress having been made in activities across NPPD, with growing recognition of DHS's roles and authorities, and the cybersecurity legislative proposal now delivered to the Hill, it's a logical point for me to leave the Department of Homeland Security and allow the team that we have developed together to carry our initiatives forward," Reitinger wrote in the email.

Reitinger does not have plans for his next move yet, but said he will spend more time with his family, including his young children, before deciding future plans for "how I can best play a role in advancing infrastructure protection and cybersecurity."

One of Reitinger's chief responsibilities at the DHS is to act as a liaison with other federal agencies also charged with providing cybersecurity protection for U.S. critical infrastructure and federal networks, such as the Department of Defense (DOD). The DHS and DOD are at the frontlines of federal cybersecurity efforts. He and his team also are responsible for centralizing how cybersecurity is handled across federal agencies.

While Reitinger's departure will be "a great loss" to the agency, Under Secretary Rand Beers cited the deep bench of cybersecurity executives that will carry the agency's mission in this area, according to an email sent by Beers to NPPD employees and obtained by InformationWeek.

"His leadership, intellectual rigor, enthusiasm, and commitment to the mission and the people of NPPD have been a central feature in making our organization better," Beers wrote, adding that he will miss him in particular as a "true partner" in cybersecurity work at the agency.

Upon Reitinger's departure, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has appointed DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C) Assistant Secretary Greg Schaffer to be acting deputy under secretary. Bobbie Stempfley, who was recently appointed deputy assistant secretary for CS&C, will take Schaffer's acting assistant secretary position, Beers said.

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