Homeland Security

No slack in reforms as DHS chief's tenure winds down

Jeh Johnson

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson promised to fulfill long-standing agency goals on management and cybersecurity.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, in his final state-of-the-agency speech, said he would make his last year in office count.

Longstanding cybersecurity and management goals are at the top of his list.

The Cybersecurity National Action Plan proposed by President Barack Obama in his fiscal 2017 budget is the culmination of seven years of effort by the Obama administration to blunt or prevent a quickening drumbeat of cyberattacks on commercial and government networks, according to Johnson.

"DHS has a hand in every aspect" of the plan, which contains a number of new oversight commissions, cyber talent search, incident response capabilities and technical initiatives, Johnson said in his Feb. 11 speech in Washington, D.C.

He said that efforts to deploy the Einstein cybersecurity screen are accelerating. Einstein 1 and 2, he said, are now in place across all federal systems, while the Einstein 3A phase is expanding.

"Thus far, E3a has blocked 700,000 cyber threats, and we are rapidly expanding this capability," he said. A year ago, E3a covered about 20 percent of federal systems. Now it is available to all agencies, and about half are using it -- including the Office of Personnel Management, which suffered a major hack in 2015.

Johnson declined to comment on whether data stolen in the OPM hack had been used to access other federal networks.

"We are working to get all federal departments and agencies on board by the end of this year," he said.The agency's other major cybersecurity program, Continuous Diagnostics and Monitoring, is also advancing.

"In 2015, we provided sensors to 97 percent of the federal civilian government," Johnson said. "Next year, DHS will provide the second phase of CDM to 100 percent of the federal civilian government."

DHS also has worked with the Office of Management and Budget and the Director of National Intelligence to identify high-value national infrastructure systems in the U.S., Johnson said, and is working with those systems' owners to increase security.

Another top priority for the agency in the coming months remains management reform, the secretary said. The centerpiece of process reform at the agency, according to Johnson, has been the Unity of Effort Initiative.  That effort, announced in 2013, aimed to better integrate the many stove-piped organizations within DHS and embrace more centralized programming, budgeting and acquisition processes.

Johnson said the agency-wide Joint Requirements Council, established in 2014 to evaluate acquisitions from the perspective of the agency as a whole, and the contractor-facing Acquisition Innovations in Motion initiative, will continue as his tenure winds down.

"My overarching goal as secretary ... is to continue to protect the homeland and leave the department a better place than I found it," he said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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