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White House To Lose Top Cybersecurity Advisor

Less than a week after telling the RSA Security conference that the government is having problems getting private industry to get behind the administration's National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, White House cybersecurity advisor Howard Schmidt is reportedly planning on resigning his post by the end of the month.

According to published reports, Schmidt has e-mailed an "informal letter of resignation" to his colleagues.

"With the historic creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the transfer of many of the responsibilities from the Critical Infrastructure Protection Board to DHS and the release of the strategy, I have decided to retire after approximately 31 years of public service and return to the private sector," Schmidt wrote in the e-mail.

Schmidt's resignation follows the February departure of Richard Clarke, who served as chairman of the President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board. When Clarke announced his resignation, the White House said it would abolish the board and move its responsibilities to the New Department of Homeland Security, which is consolidating five different federal cybersecurity offices.

Although the board was eliminated, Schmidt, Microsoft's former chief of security, remained at the White House. According to the Washington Post, Schmidt unsuccessfully maneuvered to become Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's top cybersecurity advisor.

The job eventually went to Robert Liscouski, who was named assistant secretary of infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security. Liscouski is the former director of information assurance at Coca Cola.

Schmidt has served at the White House for 17 months. He joined the White House staff shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Schmidt, along with Clarke, is a key author of the White House plan to better protect the nation's network infrastructure from terrorist cyber attacks. As finally released by the White House, the plan calls for a voluntary partnership between the public and private sectors to share security intelligence, reduce vulnerabilities and deter malicious entities.

The effort is getting major financial backing. The administration has authorized $900 million dollars for the next five years for cyber security research and development. Schmidt said the money has yet to be appropriated. Overall spending on services and technology across all federal agencies is expected to grow form $45.4 billion in fiscal year 2003 to $68.2 billion in 2008 with e-government and homeland security getting the lion's share.