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Melissa Hathaway is a woman in limbo. Not the dance so popular at Bar Mitzvah parties, but in not knowing if she’ll get the job as White House cyber coordinator. She is on the National Security Council now, having completed the 60-day review and endured the infighting before release of the strategy a couple of weeks ago. Seems like she ought to get it. But at that level, nothing is certain.
The president, any president, has a lot of fish to fry, and while to the IT community the cyber coordinator announcement is holding up the Western World, the president has other pressing priorities.
A lot of people are pulling for Hathaway. She got a warm reception Tuesday as luncheon speaker at the Symantec Government Symposium in Washington.
A day earlier, she’d attended the speech by Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, at which he did not announce the establishment of DoD’s cyber command. I watched from a distance as a couple of earnest business development types performed the servile business card presentation to Hathaway. No doubt they were describing the cyber product to end all cyber products, asking if they could visit her office for just a few minutes. I didn’t overhear the conversation, but I could see the body language. It must be tough, I thought, for someone so prominent, even if momentarily, to stand patiently through these mini-pitches. Especially if you are waiting for a really big call from Presidential Personnel, or maybe the Chief of Staff.
That is one of those little Washington dances, the handing of the card with the fervent hope it will eventually lead to a big contract, or at least the ability to report back to your company or client that you had a meeting with, say, Melissa Hathaway. Pity, because even if she gets the nod from Obama, it is unlikely the position will involve source selection.
Hathaway is keeping up a solid front. Her Symantec speech was a little dry, basically a summary of the report. Sure enough, just moments after she concluded, the line queued up to have a word with her.
I’d never met Hathaway. But she was sitting at the table next to mine, so a minute before her speech, just as a waitress set down her fruit salad, I sidled over to introduce myself. She was polite. But I didn’t have the heart to hand her my business card.