updated 3/6/2009 7:27:19 PM ET 2009-03-07T00:27:19

The head of the U.S. cybersecurity center has resigned amid persistent battles over areas of responsibility and confusion over the control and protection of the country's vast computer networks and systems.

Rod Beckstrom's decision to step down as director of the National Cybersecurity Center comes as the White House is conducting a broad 60-day review of how well the government is using technology to protect everything from classified national security data to vital financial systems and air traffic control.

In a blunt letter to Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, Beckstrom complained about a shortage of money for the center and a clash over whether the National Security Agency should control cyber efforts. The role of the NSA in protecting domestic computer networks has triggered debate, particularly among privacy and civil liberties groups who oppose giving such control to U.S. spying agencies.

Intelligence officials argue, however, that they must be involved in order to defend the country and its networks adequately.

Beckstrom's letter was dated Thursday, and said his resignation would be effective next Friday.

Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said the department is working with other federal agencies, specifically the NSA, to protect civilian networks and is communicating with the private sector to find additional ways to improve cybersecurity.

President Barack Obama last month ordered a 60-day review of the nation's cybersecurity and put former Bush administration aide Melissa Hathaway in charge of the effort. Hathaway has been meeting with industry leaders, Capitol Hill staff and other experts, seeking guidance on what the federal government's role should be in protecting information networks against attack.

She also is asking for recommendations on how officials should define and report cyber incidents and attacks; how the government should structure its cyber oversight and how the nation can increase security without stifling innovation.

As a candidate, Obama criticized Bush's cybersecurity efforts, and suggested that as president he would have a cyber adviser who would report directly to him. It was not known whether that remains the plan. On Thursday, Obama named a federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, to work in the White House. Kundra is to have a role in overseeing the ability of computer systems to speak to each other and the security for the federal government's vast information databanks.

Associated Press Writer Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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