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Proposal to Move Cybersecurity Offices to White House

A proposal announced yesterday to move cybersecurity offices from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to the White House will fall short of the objective to elevate the importance of cybersecurity. Apparently, Republican lawmakers are unhappy with the level of attention paid to cybersecurity by DHS - a concern with which many people empathize. A similar proposal (HR.5068) introduced last week by House members Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) of the Homeland Security Subcommittee would create an Assistant Secretary position, elevating the director position of the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD)now held by Amit Yoran that reports to the Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis & Infrastructure Protection (IAIP).

There is little dispute among the members of Congress and the private sector that progress has been slow and cybersecurity appears to be taking a back seat to other terrorism or infrastructure protection efforts. However, one has to really question whether moving it into the White House will solve the problems. A few observations about the implications of such a move:

  • There is no guarantee, especially in an election year, that cybersecurity will get any more resources or attention in the White House than if it remains in DHS.
  • Decoupling cybersecurity from the other homeland security functions currently in DHS is likely to do a disservice to the need for greater coordination between the protection of "physical" and "cyber" assets.
  • Congress has observed that the DHS budget devoted to cybersecurity is insufficient and yet senior DHS officials report that their budget requests are consistent with the President's priorities - suggesting that there will be no greater resources if cybersecurity is in the White House.
  • Finally, the focus upon the elevation of cybersecurity within the federal government bureaucracy loses sight that some of the most fundamental changes and improvements are likely to come from the private sector, including educational institutions.

Between this latest proposal and the ones floated over the summer to reorganize cybersecurity in DHS, it will be interesting to see where everything falls out after the election. Of course, regardless of whatever shuffling of the organization chart that might occur, the leadership of individuals currently in charge, including the President, DHS Secretary, DHS Assistant Secretary for IAIP, and DHS NCSD Director can go a long way towards making the adjustments and improvements that are behind the intentions of the efforts to realign cybersecurity priorities within the federal government.

See USA Today's account ("House to propose returning cybersecurity offices to White House").



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