Friday, August 04, 2006

CMU and Government Contract work

Head scratching from Information Week with a Pittsburgh connection.
Qualifications? The Homeland Security Department may routinely flunk government security audits, but it didn't feel the need to insist on any stinking technical qualifications for the man who has been serving as the acting director of its National Cyber Security Division for the past 21 months. A widely picked up AP story headlined "Deal For Cybersecurity Chief Questioned" leaves you wondering how the government can be paying $577,000 over a two-year period to an attorney who has no formal technical background in computer security. By comparison, according to AP, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earns just $175,000 a year.

As it turns out, this is attorney Donald Purdy Jr.'s second national security posting. He was previously a White House cybersecurity adviser, which is interesting considering he's not a security expert. He's actually an employee of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which worked out a two-year loan deal to the government, technically in exchange for agreeing to pick up his annual salary. But the school has gotten an even bigger payoff--literally. So far this year, the National Cyber Security Division has paid out $19 million--or according to AP, a fifth of its budget--in contract work to the school.

Purdy the lawyer says he doesn't involve himself in discussions about business dealings between the department he's running and the school that technically employs him. Some members of Congress are objecting on multiple levels. Meanwhile, Chertoff last year created a position of DHS assistant secretary over cybersecurity, but has yet to fill the post. Perhaps he's holding out for another attorney.

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