US cybersecurity defences are being hampered by a lack of clear definitions of the roles of the government agencies involved, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In a report on the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), launched in secret in 2008, the GAO identifies the need to define roles and responsibilities as a key challenge to cybersecurity efforts.
The report found that government agencies have overlapping and unco-ordinated responsibilities for cybersecurity and that it is unclear where overall responsibility lies, according to US reports.
Other problems include the lack of a formal strategy for co-ordinating collaboration with international partners on standards, law enforcement and information sharing, the GAO said.
The White House took issue with the GAO's conclusion that the roles of the various agencies tasked with cybersecurity were not well-defined. White House chief information officer Vivek Kundra has insisted in a letter to the congressional watchdog that the roles and responsibilities of agencies participating in the CNCI are clearly defined.
He said President Barack Obama has made cybersecurity a top priority, appointing Howard Schmidt as overall cybersecurity co-ordinator in December.
At RSA Conference 2010, Schmidt announced that the White House was declassifying elements of the CNCI and was seeking to strengthen its cybersecurity partnership with the private sector.
"Transparency and partnerships are key to ensuring security in cyberspace. To be successful, we need to seek out new and innovative partnerships. Our collective knowledge and experience is the most powerful tool we have," he said.