CISA maintains focus after Nielsen's departure

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco 

Former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her confirmation hearing in 2017, was instrumental in establishing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Former Homeland Security chief Kirstjen Nielsen was a driving force behind the establishment of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. According to CISA's leader Chris Krebs, the cyber shop hasn't missed a beat since the former secretary's ouster.

"When I think back to what Secretary Nielsen legacy is, it's getting [CISA] established but also instituting a concept of resilience, not just in systems or in communities, but in organizations as well," Krebs said April 23 at the AFCEA DHS conference Washington, D.C.

Nielsen was the first DHS secretary with a cybersecurity background and a champion for renaming and reorganizing the National Protection and Programs Directorate as CISA. She resigned under pressure in early April over immigration policy disputes with President Donald Trump.

"It would be a significant disservice to her and acting [DHS] Secretary [Kevin] McAleenan if upon her departure we were to falter or make a misstep" with efforts to help critical infrastructure partners push more resiliency into their operations, he said.

CISA, which is also charged with also defending civilian federal agency networks, will press for a more centralized approach to manage cybersecurity requirements for those assets, he said, as well as work to get Congress and agency heads to think about synchronizing the budget process with risk assessment and mitigation efforts. Keeping those efforts on federal agency secretaries' radar screens simultaneously will help accelerate getting and paying for more resiliency in a more coordinated, efficient way.

Krebs also plans to maintain the agency's focus on election interference. He told reporters after the event that details on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections in the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller "was an extension of prior law enforcement and intelligence assessments." He told the conference that CISA "is dialed in" on providing states with assistance to deal with such interference and said that CISA will "keep asking for money" from Congress to continue to do that work as 2020 approaches.

In a later panel, Mark Kneidinger, deputy director of CISA's National Risk Management Center, said that the center is set to release a report that identifies crucial functions in critical infrastructures that could impact multiple sectors simultaneously.

"At the end of this month, or in the May time frame, we'll be coming out with the national critical functions that have been identified. We're working to identify those cross-sector areas. Then after that, we'll be working through the sector coordinating councils, government coordinating councils and sector-specific agencies," looking to bring associated industry partners in to help address mitigation, 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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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