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Obama loses (another) cybersecurity bigwig

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Updated Yet another high-ranking government official in charge of securing the country's computer networks has resigned. This time, it's the head of the US Department of Homeland Security's Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

Mischel Kwon submitted her letter of resignation last week, according to The Washington Post. The report cited unidentified colleagues saying the US-CERT director was moving on because she had grown frustrated by bureaucratic obstacles and a lack of authority to fulfill her mission. She was the fourth US-CERT director in five years.

RSA, the security division of EMC, said Monday Kwon will join the company as vice president of public sector security solutions. In her new job, Kwon will help lead RSA's security consulting practice by advising public and private sector customers that are required to maintain and protect critical infrastructures. She'll begin in early September.

Kwon's departure announcement follows that of Melissa E. Hathaway, the White House interim top aide for cybersecurity, who last week also submitted a letter of resignation following delays by the Obama administration in appointing a permanent director to oversee the safety of the nation's vital computer networks. Insiders had expected the position to be filled months ago.

And in March, Rod Beckstrom, resigned as head of the National Cybersecurity Center, an office within the Department of Homeland Security that's responsible for coordinating the defense of civilian, military, and intelligence networks. Beckstrom, who went on to accept the top post at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, warned in a letter announcing his decision that the post was underfunded and unduly controlled by the country's ultra-secretive National Security Agency.

"These jobs are tough," Beckstrom wrote Saturday on the micro-blogging site Twitter. "We wish you the best Mischel!"

The resignations highlight the difficulty President Barack Obama is having in filling and retaining top-flight talent to secure vital government and civilian computer networks and infrastructure. On his first full day as president, he outlined plans to declare the country's computer infrastructure a national asset that would be protected by a single cyber adviser who would report directly to him.

In addition to remaining unfilled, the position will no longer report directly to the president, causing some to question how effective the post will be. ®

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