Help Wanted: Department of Homeland Security

The FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) officially moves to the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Saturday. Most of its staff, however, will not.

The NIPC was created by the FBI four years ago to investigate computer crimes. Under the legislation creating the DHS, Congress mandated the NIPC, along with the Department of Commerce’s Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, the General Services Administration’s Federal Computer Incident Response Center (FedCIRC) and a number of other agencies, move to the DHS to form a new Directorate for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP).

The IAIP will coordinate intelligence information as well as terrorist information that turns up in FBI investigations. Daunting those that task may be, given inter-agency rivalries and the sheer logistics of merging numerous operations with a history of independence and secrecy, the new IAIP immediately faces a greater challenge: finding talent.

The FBI has retained at least a third of its NIPC computer crime analyst talent pool, and a number of other NIPC employees have transferred to other FBI positions, leaving the IAIP with, at best, half of the employees of the NIPC. Most critically, key leadership posts are still unfilled at the IAIP, including the top job of Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.

The new agency is also seeking to fill the job titles of Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis and an Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection. The IAIP unit in charge of tracking emerging computer threats such as viruses is also currently leaderless.

The Bush administration created more uncertainty for the IAIP last month when Bush announced he was creating a new terrorist threat center to be run by the CIA, implying the DHS’ role in computer intelligence analysis would be limited. The reduced role of the IAIP in intelligence gathering became apparent when Bush’s top pick to run the agency, former Defense Intelligence Agency Director James Clapper, turned down the offer.

According to the Washington Post, several other top leaders in the intelligence community have also declined to accept the job. Until the leadership posts are filled, security experts from the government and the private sector will be reluctant to sign up with the IAIP.

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