On May 6, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced a hotshot hire shortly would be at the helm of the nation’s 24-hour cyber watch floor.

The position had been vacant since last September.

It was not until August that Johnson named a respected, in-house assistant secretary and a low-profile HP security chief to jointly head the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, or NCCIC.

A history of employee burnout at Homeland Security might have factored into the difficulty of recruiting leadership, says a former DHS official who once oversaw the NCCIC (pronounced “N-kick”).

“This is the pot calling the kettle black. I contributed to it as much as anyone else,” said Mark Weatherford, who joined DHS from industry, served as deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and returned to industry after less than two years. “The churn over there within DHS has been problematic.”

Two top DHS cyber leaders have already stepped down this year. John Streufert, director of federal network resilience, departed in May after joining the department in January 2012. Bobbie Stempfley left in February, after serving as deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity strategy and emergency communications since April of last year.

Homeland Security likely wanted a person who would commit to a long run at an operation recently thrown into the spotlight, said Weatherford, now a principal at the Chertoff Group consultancy. 

President Barack Obama visited the nondescript Arlington office space earlier this year to promote the administration’s cyber agenda. The 2014 Federal Information Security Modernization Act positioned the facility as a “central…

Continue Reading