Cyber Security Gets Limelight in DHS Reorg

Elevating the bureaucratic status of cyber security at the Department of

Homeland Security (DHS) is part of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff’s sweeping

reforms announced Wednesday.

Currently, cyber security is coordinated at DHS by the director of the

National Cyber Security Division, which resides in the department’s

Infrastructure Protection Directorate. The technology industry has long

complained cyber security deserves equal billing with physical security.

Under Chertoff’s plan, a new Assistant Secretary for Cyber security and

Telecommunications will be responsible for identifying and assessing the

vulnerability of critical telecommunications infrastructure and assets.

In addition, the new office will be charged with providing “timely,

actionable and valuable” threat information and leading the national

response to cyber and telecommunications attacks.

Chertoff also called for increased information sharing as one of six DHS

reorganization priorities. The other priorities include preparedness, border

security, transportation security, department management and adjustments to

better meet DHS’ homeland security mission.

“The ability to share information with our state and local partners, the

private sector, law enforcement and first responders is absolutely critical

to our success,” Chertoff said. “Otherwise, we are effectively tying the

hands of those who are on the ground and charged with the responsibility of

protecting their community, their neighbors and their families.”

Chertoff promised to invite “every state homeland security advisor and every

state emergency management coordinator” to Washington for working sessions

to discuss information exchange protocols and other topics of mutual concern.

“We recognize the need for better and more inclusive information sharing.

Information sharing is a two-way street,” he added.

But it was Chertoff’s call for greater cyber security awareness at the DHS

that drew floods of praise and statements from the technology industry.

Robert Holleyman of the Business Software Alliance called Chertoff’s plan

“much needed” and “innovative.”

“The plan unveiled by [DHS] serves as a profound step in the right

direction, specifically through the establishment of new senior positions

with responsibility over cyber security and critical infrastructure

protection,” Holleyman said.

Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of

America (ITAA), said Chertoff’s cyber security reorganization plan was

“terrific news.”

“ITAA has called for the creation of a cyber security czar for more than five

years. We think the challenges of cyber security are special and different,

and we are gratified?Chertoff shares that view,” he said. “We also believe

that focusing the job on cyber security and telecommunications makes good

sense given the on-going convergence of IT and telecommunications.”

Miller said special challenges justify elevating the role of cyber security

at DHS, including managing a national cyber response system and a national

program to reduce cyber security threats and vulnerabilities.

“The nation’s critical infrastructures, including water, chemicals,

transportation, energy, financial services, health care and others, rely

significantly on computer networks to deliver the services that maintain our

safety and national economy,” Miller said.

“It therefore is incumbent on the

owners and operators of those critical infrastructures to manage

improvements in the security of their information systems and to have a

senior individual within the government?who can coordinate collaborative

efforts across critical infrastructure sectors and with state and local

governments.”

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