Cybersecurity office bill gains steam

The House subcommittee in charge of cybersecurity has approved a bill that would create a new cybersecurity czar.

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Cybersecurity on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of H.R. 285, the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2005.

The bill would create a National Cybersecurity Office in the Homeland Security Department’s Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate. The bill would also replace the department's director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cybersecurity Division with a new assistant secretary for cybersecurity. That person would head the new office and coordinate protection of critical IT infrastructure in both the public and private sectors.

Before the vote, a panel of IT and homeland-security executives told the subcommittee that the bill addresses inadequacies in DHS' approach to cybersecurity.

"A director-level position does not have the sufficient stature or programmatic authority to be successful," said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance. "A leader in securing the critical infrastructure must have the authority and resources to accomplish this important and complex mission. This leader must be at least the assistant secretary level to have the impact that is needed."

The assistant secretary would create and manage programs to respond to and minimize cybersecurity threats. It would direct and coordinate cybersecurity efforts within DHS and other federal agencies. The position would also create a warning system and make the private sector and general public more aware of cybersecurity threats.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the cosponsors of the bill, said she supports giving DHS' cybersecurity chief more clout and prestige.

"We are behind where we should be as a country," Lofgren said in a statement. "This bill does not solve the problem. It sets the stage to solve the problem."

The bill now goes to the House Homeland Security Committee for consideration.

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