White House council puts cybersecurity in focus

The White House’s Homeland Security Council has raised its awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and the best definition of the federal government’s role, said a senior administration official.

Thomas Bossert, a senior director for preparedness policy on the council, said there needs to be more coordination from the federal level.

“There is a real focus on cybersecurity from the White House Council,” he said after a speech at the Network Centric Homeland Security conference sponsored in Washington by IDGA. “There is possible guidance coming from the presidential level later this year.”

Bossert added that information technology security is one of Frances Townsend's top priorities. Townsend heads the council.

“We are aware of a lot of different activities, and the guidance may provide who does what and when,” said Bossert, who added that no guidance was imminent and discussions are just in the early stages.

The council will also try to improve the coordination of federally funded Fusion Centers nationwide. The White House is working with the FBI and the Homeland Security Department to form a regional architecture to share information more easily.

Bossert said 42 states have or plan to establish Fusion Centers, and DHS has issued more than $380 million in grants to do so.

“We want them to develop common operating procedures,” he said.

The Information Sharing Environment in the Office of the National Director of Intelligence also is working on common operating procedures for information sharing.

Bossert said in May the Intelligence Threat Assessment Coordination Group, which includes federal, state and local officials, agreed on a formal standard for how to better share information.

“DHS used to have its own way of sending out information, and the FBI did, too,” he said. “Now we have a coordinated way to send out threat assessment information. This is a very important milestone. This will be a standard message from the federal government.”

Bossert said the goal is for the state and local first responders to know what the federal first responders know in real time. If that happens, he said, everyone will be better prepared to recognize and deal with possible threats.

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