DHS center to focus on security research

The Homeland Security Department is creating a clearinghouse to keep track of efforts by civilian and defense agencies, universities, and the private sector to develop new tools and techniques to fight cyberterrorism.

The new center is just one way DHS is planning to harness cybersecurity research and resources, Charles McQueary, the new undersecretary for DHS' Science and Technology Directorate, told the House Science Committee May 14.

"The existence of many hard and currently unsolved problems and the changing nature of the threat will require an ongoing research effort," McQueary said. President Bush has proposed $803 million for the directorate in 2004.

The center will be designed to make the most efficient use of research and development (R&D) money and low-cost technology to prevent cyberterrorism, according to McQueary. It 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.

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

"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," he said.

DHS spokesman David Wray said there is no date yet for the opening 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.

Industry input is considered a top priority, according to Andy Purdy, the directorate's cybersecurity adviser.

"The idea of trying to marshal limited federal resources is very important," he said. "It is important for the private sector to weigh in on this."

Experts said the center is a good idea because the civilian side of cybersecurity research has long been neglected.

"It would get a bigger bang out of the buck and maybe get more bucks," said Franklin Reeder, chairman of the Center for Internet Security.

William Neugent, an author and chief engineer at Mitre Corp.'s Security and Information Operations, said the center could help researchers avoid duplicating one another's work.

"It's a good way to just share ideas," he said. "It adds a little more work, and it's harder to do it across a broader, more diverse community."

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 not fast enough.

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