Cybersecurity

House Intel panel, White House spar over new cyber agency

Shutterstock image: the White House.

The White House and the House Intelligence Committee are sparring over the resources and responsibilities allotted to a cyber intelligence agency the White House announced in February.

The White House intends the fledgling Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center to be modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center so that it helps “connect the dots” to give federal agencies a clearer view of cyber-threat patterns.

The fiscal 2016 intelligence authorization bill approved by the House panel this week defines the CTIIC’s mandate more broadly, saying it should be “the primary organization within the federal government for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States pertaining to cyber threats.”

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy worrying that the House bill would expand the CTIIC’s responsibilities and give the agency “certain intelligence mission management functions already assigned elsewhere” in the intelligence community. For the White House, the bill would not only unduly expand the CTIIC’s responsibilities, but also leave the agency under-resourced.

“The limits this bill would place on CTIIC’s resources, and the expansive approach the bill would take with regard to CTIIC’s missions, are unnecessary and unwise, and would risk the CTIIC being unable to fully perform the core functions assigned to it in the bill,” the White House said in the statement, which strongly suggested a veto would be in the offing.

The bill would cap the number of permanent CTIIC staff at 50 and limit the agency’s ability to hire contractors.  

“The CTIIC’s mission was crafted to ensure that the new center would not duplicate existing ODNI cyber efforts,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “The CTIIC mission also mirrors the statutory mission of other successful ODNI centers like the National Counterproliferation Center.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to unveil its authorization bill. A spokesperson for Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), declined to comment.

This isn’t the first time the House Intelligence Committee and the White House have clashed over the CTIIC. The White House gave the committee little-to-no notice before announcing the agency, and lawmakers were not pleased, Politico reported in February.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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