WASHINGTON — As the Obama administration continues its efforts to shore up the nation’s digital infrastructure, the lead agency that coordinates with the private sector on network security has secured funding to hire as many as 1,000 cybersecurity experts.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the announcement this morning at an event to mark the first day of October, which for the past six years has been designated National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
“Cybersecurity is one of our most urgent priorities,” Napolitano said. “The president is intent on equipping this department with the tools it needs.”
DHS secured the budget authorization to bring on the additional cybersecurity experts earlier this week, but waited until this morning’s event to make the announcement.
“We expect to bring them on board at the maximum [over] the next three years, but we hope to do it more quickly than that,” Napolitano said.
The secretary was joined by other officials from DHS, the White House and the Defense Department at this morning’s event, which was designed to underscore the spirit of cooperation across various sectors of the government regarding cybersecurity.
“Within the federal government, we have come together to an unprecedented degree,” said Christopher Painter, the White House’s acting senior director for cybersecurity.
Painter reiterated the message Obama delivered in a speech in May, describing the nation’s digital infrastructure as a “strategic national asset” and a top security priority.
At the time, Obama announced his plan to create a new cyber coordinator position to serve as a liaison with Congress, the agencies and the private sector to streamline federal cybersecurity policy.
A rigorous selection process
More than four months later, that position sits unfilled, but Painter, who’s serving as the top White House cybersecurity official in the interim, dismissed speculation that the administration is struggling to deliver on Obama’s promise.
“There is a rigorous selection process that is well underway,” Painter said. “I think it is a mistake to assume that because that person isn’t in place that nothing’s happening.”
In the May speech, Obama promised a national education campaign to promote cybersecurity awareness to the public.
He is expected to issue a proclamation later today marking October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
“When we do these months, it’s more than just an announcement. It’s a recommitment,” Napolitano said. “It’s important that we take collective action.”
She added, “Everyone has a role to play when it comes to cybersecurity.”