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House Approves Cybersecurity Promotion

The U.S. House again expressed concern Wednesday night that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not paying enough attention to the nation's networks.

As part of the $34.2 billion DHS budget package approved by the House, lawmakers voted to create an assistant secretary for cybersecurity within the massive DHS bureaucracy. If ultimately approved, the higher profile gives cybersecurity equal billing with physical security at the DHS.

Last year, the House approved a similar measure, but budget negotiators dumped the provision before it reached President Bush's desk.

Since the Bush administration pushed cybersecurity out of the White House and into the DHS in 2002, the security industry has complained the goal of hardening government networks to cyber attacks is not being met.

"The assistant secretary for cybersecurity position, at this higher level, will be better able to coordinate with other assistant secretaries within the [DHS] Directorate, as well as officials throughout the department, other federal agencies, and the private sector," Rep. Zoe Lofgren sponsor of the measure, said at a hearing last month.

Critics of the plan say the answer to better federal network security rests not with a higher profile but with procurement power and influence.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the powerful House Government Reform Committee, wants the responsibility for cybersecurity to move back into the White House along with a post in the Office of Management and Budget.

That move, Davis claims, would give cybersecurity more muscle and influence within the government.

Supporters of the proposed new cybersecurity position at the DHS hope the raised profile will slow the high turnover rate of cyber chiefs at the DHS. So far, the administration has been unable to fill the position for more than a year.



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