DHS nominee stresses cybersecurity, border technology

Janet Napolitano, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Homeland Security Department, today stressed the importance of cybersecurity and using technology in border security during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

DHS has a leadership role in protecting the nation’s information technology infrastructure and the government’s civilian cyber networks, in addition to overseeing  border security and immigration issues. The department also oversees billions of dollars in grants that go to state and local authorities each year and federal emergency response efforts. If confirmed by the Senate, Napolitano, Arizona’s governor, would head a department with approximately 200,000 employees.

That department plays a key role in the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative started by the Bush administration in January 2008.

Napolitano said cybersecurity involves not only DHS but also the Defense Department, intelligence agencies and others. She added that DHS has a central role to play in the effort.

“I think this is an area where I’m going to want to plow very deeply very quickly,” she said, adding that Obama has said several times that cybersecurity is an area in which he wants a national strategy and coordinating plan.

She added that as attorney general of Arizona she created a cyber crime unit. Meanwhile, much of the hearing focused on Napolitano’s approach to immigration and border security as governor of a border state.

To secure the border with Mexico, she urged a mix of personnel, technology, physical barriers and interior enforcement. In particular, she said technology had a key role in securing the border by augmenting efforts by federal officers.

Securing the border “requires technology, it requires things like ground sensors,” she said. “The SBInet [a program to use technplgy to secure the border], which has had a problematic start, is something...[that] could hold great promise and we want to keep pushing the issue of technology.... We need to be able to augment manpower with technology.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the committee’s chairman, said he hoped that the Senate would vote to confirm her quickly.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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