Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Deal for Cybersecurity Chief Questioned

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's cybersecurity chief is being paid $577,000 under a two-year agreement with the university that employs him and also does extensive business with the federal office he manages.

Donald "Andy" Purdy Jr. has been acting director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division for 21 months. His contract, which has drawn attention from members of Congress, is paying him more than the $175,000 annual salary that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff earns.

Purdy is employed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which has loaned him to the Homeland Security Department in exchange for the government paying nearly all of his salary. Meanwhile, Purdy's cybersecurity division has paid Carnegie Mellon $19 million in contracts this year, almost one-fifth the unit's total budget.

Purdy said he has not been involved in discussions over his office's business deals with the school.

Some lawmakers who oversee the Homeland Security Department questioned the decision to hire Purdy as acting cybersecurity director. They noted enduring criticism by industry experts and congressional investigators over the department's performance on cybersecurity matters.

Purdy's contract "raises questions about whether the American people are getting their money's worth," Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, wrote in a letter to Republicans.

Purdy, a longtime attorney who has held a number of state and federal legal and managerial jobs, has no formal, technical background in computer security.

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