Robert Liscouski

Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection

Robert Liscouski calls his job "humbling." Liscouski, 49, is assistant secretary of Homeland Security for infrastructure protection. His office, which is part of the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate in the Homeland Security Department, has coordinating authority over the protection of all sectors of the nation's critical infrastructure, including agriculture, food, water, public health, transportation, and hazardous materials, as well as key assets such as national monuments, nuclear power plants, and dams.

Liscouski-who may be one of the few male Homeland Security Department officials to sport an earring-is responsible for examining possible threats against U.S. infrastructure and ensuring that this infrastructure is made as safe as possible.

His operation is particularly challenging because 85 percent of the infrastructure is owned not by the government, but by the private sector. Thus, much of his work involves coordinating with industry to determine points of potential vulnerability and exhorting companies to close those openings.

Liscouski has come under fire from House Democrats, who have charged that his office is taking too long to list the parts of the infrastructure most vulnerable to attack. Much of that delay has been attributed to his understaffed office, whose size will increase in 2004 from 250 staffers to 400.

But Liscouski, who is widely praised as unflappable, has the background of a man who is used to keeping his head even under intense pressure. The New York City native spent five years as a homicide and narcotics investigator in New Jersey.

After his stint as an investigator, Liscouski spent 11 years working around the world with the State Department Diplomatic Security Service. Most recently, he was in charge of information security strategies for Coca-Cola. Having headed Coca-Cola security, Liscouski brings a unique perspective to his post, says a Capitol Hill staff member who is an expert in homeland security. "He's a really commonsense-approach kind of guy. . . . We've had very good hearings with him, where he's been direct and straightforward about where they're making progress and where they're not making progress, and that's kind of refreshing in this town."

He received his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from John Jay College in New York and his master's in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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