Obama Aide Joins HKS Belfer Center

Melissa Hathaway, the Obama administration’s former top cybersecurity officer, officially took her place at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs on October 1, where she know serves as a senior advisor to the Center’s Project Minerva.

The project is a joint Harvard, MIT, and Department of Defense cybersecurity initiative designed to investigate the foreign policy and international relations aspects of cybersecurity.

Eric B. Rosenbach, the Belfer Center’s executive director for research, said that the committee brought Hathaway on due to her practical experience with cybersecurity within the sphere of government.

“We always try to work in the spirit of the Belfer Center, which is to produce policy-relevant research, science, and technology,” he said. “She’s a perfect fit with our mission.”

While working for both the Bush and Obama administrations, Hathaway played different roles in the formulation of cybersecurity policy under each head of state.

As the Bush administration’s Cyber Coordination Executive, she led a government-wide task force on the subject.

And as Acting Senior Director for Cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security Councils under Obama, Hathaway helped redefine the “cybersecurity czar” position, “since so many of the president’s initiatives have a strong cybersecurity component,” she said.

The new cybersecurity czar position, which the administration has yet to fill, will cooperate jointly with the National Economic Council and the National Security Council, viewed as a controversial move by some on the Beltway.

“In theory, you would have two bosses,” Hathaway said. “But there are others in the White House with dual reporting chains. You just have to treat it as a team.”

While some imagined that Hathaway herself would stay in the White House to serve as the new cybersecurity czar after her team concluded their report, she decided to leave for Cambridge.

“What attracted me to Harvard was the ability to work with students,” she said. “I thought if I could actually interface with students and tell them about the program’s shortfalls, we could start harvesting new ideas in Washington.”

Project Minerva—the first initiative of its kind at Harvard—consists of various professors and officials interested in cybersecurity from the university’s various schools, including Rosenbach, the Kennedy School’s Richard Clarke and Joseph S. Nye, and the Law School’s Jack L. Goldsmith.

“Melissa Hathaway is a real expert with great policy energy around cyber security questions—that are cutting edge for US national security,” wrote Former University President Lawrence H. Summers, who is currently the director of the National Economic Council, in an e-mailed statement. “This will make her a real asset to the Belfer center.”

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at mcauley@fas.harvard.edu.