DHS creating cyber R & D center

The Homeland Security Department is creating a research and development center to coordinate cybersecurity efforts across civilian and defense agencies, universities, and the private sector, a top official told Congress today.

Charles McQueary, the new under secretary for DHS' Science and Technology Directorate, told the House Science Committee that the center will make sure cybersecurity research and resources are effectively used. McQueary was one of four top officials testifying about cybersecurity and the need to ratchet up U.S. defenses against a new kind of warfare.

"Too many people are much too casual about it," said committee chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.).

In an effort to help develop state-of-the-art and low-cost technology to prevent cyberterrorism, the DHS center will partner with the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, two federal agencies that deal with R & D, as well as with academic institutions and private corporations.

"We see this as critical to coordinate the resources and efforts across the government R & D community to accelerate technical capabilities that address DHS priorities," McQueary said.

McQueary said the center would develop strategic programs to deal with "specific gaps in U.S. cybersecurity capabilities."

"The center will foster national and international cooperation in creating a robust and defensible cyber infrastructure," he said.

DHS spokesman David Wray said there is no date yet for the start-up of the cybersecurity center. He called it "a new concept" that will work with other agencies and support the overall mission of DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

Asked during the committee hearing whether enough was being done to deal with the growing cybersecurity problem, McQueary and other witnesses said the United States is moving in the right direction but is not there yet.

"We as a nation are not focusing on this very real threat," said NSF Director Rita Colwell. "It is an international problem. We also need to understand that we are being cyberattacked from outside the country."

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