DHS not prepared for cyberattacks, House committee chair says

The Homeland Security Department is severely behind schedule in its core mission of preparing for major cyberattacks, explosive attacks, natural disasters and other scenarios, according to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Of eight planning scenarios and associated planning documents that are supposed to be the foundation of the National Response Framework, the department has completed only the first step of planning on a single scenario, Thompson wrote in an Oct. 9 letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

As of Sept. 23, the department had finished its strategic guidance document for explosive attacks, which was the only scenario for which that document was completed, said a spokesman for Thompson. Strategic plans, concepts of operation, and operational plans were not completed for any of the eight scenarios.

“Since these planning scenarios are at the very core of the department’s mission, it is rather astonishing that these plans have not been completed,” Thompson wrote.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, the department was to establish the response framework based on 15 planning scenarios, including explosive attacks, natural disasters, chem-bio attacks and cyberattacks. Later, these were consolidated to eight attack and disaster scenarios. Details of some of the scenarios have not been made available publicly because they are considered sensitive information.

Thompson asked for the department to provide a schedule by Oct. 23 for when the planning scenarios, guidance documents and plans would be completed.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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