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US Digital Service Hauled in to Shore up White House Security After Hack

American Spirit/Shutterstock.com

After a breach of unclassified White House internal networks last fall, the Obama administration hauled in a team of former Silicon Valley tech mavens to help patch up network security.

The U.S. Digital Service -- the newly minted federal IT fix-it shop headed by former Google engineer Mikey Dickerson -- has been dispatched to look at shoring up security on the White House networks, the Office of Management and Budget confirmed to Nextgov.  

Efforts to extinguish the suspicious behavior on the unclassified network were still ongoing as of Oct. 30, after the breach weeks before.

Dickerson’s USDS team consists of about 20 tech gurus, including political appointees, career staff and interim consultants from Facebook and Google.

A publicly available resume for Parisa Tabriz, a security engineer for Google, listed her involvement as a consultant on a “Top Secret/Classified” project with USDS beginning in November 2014 to “enhance network security at the White House” and EOP.

An OMB official confirmed that Tabriz advised EOP on industry best practices and procedures but declined to comment further on her role.

The arrival of the USDS cyber response team comes at a time when two top IT officials at the White House have announced their resignations.

Karen Britton, who served as the chief information officer of the Executive Office of the President since December 2012, announced Tuesday she’s leaving her post to join e-Management, a small IT firm based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

White House Deputy CIO Alissa Johnson confirmed Jan. 6 to Nextgov she too is “transitioning out” of EOP.

“The new year is a time for great change and new opportunities. With that being said, I have decided to expand my wings into new areas,” she said in an email to colleagues announcing her move. Johnson, who’s currently on vacation, did not immediately reveal her plans for the future.

USDS’ arrival at EOP hasn’t been without its challenges, a source familiar with the situation who requested anonymity told Nextgov.

While it’s not a bad thing that Dickerson and his crew have been called in to make improvements, USDS may be looking to downsize EOP’s IT staff, which has created stress on career employees there, according to the source.

“There’s a ridiculous amount of chaos … everyone is walking on eggshells,” the source said. “EOP is moving in a different direction very fast.”

However, a White House official told Nextgov the USDS rescue team members are not replacing anyone within the White House's internal IT shop. He added that “the departures are unrelated to the USDS' work.”

(Image via American Spirit/Shutterstock.com)

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