Dissension in the ranks?

Schmidt: Congress' inability to pass legislation that would better define agencies' cybersecurity roles should not be a serious problem, despite a tug of war over who is in charge.

capitol dome

Former White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said Congress' inability to pass legislation that would better define agencies' cybersecurity roles should not be a serious problem, despite a tug of war over who is in charge.

"I think the [cybersecurity] executive order has clarified some of those leadership issues," Schmidt said, noting that it is generally agreed that the Department of Homeland Security supports the private sector when it comes to critical infrastructure; the Defense Department and the National Security Agency work with the defense industrial base and defense entities, including some parts of the intelligence community; and the FBI handles law enforcement and counterintelligence.

In terms of legislation, the House has passed a bill aimed at lowering the barriers for sharing information between the private sector and the government, but a broader Senate bill has gone nowhere.

Schmidt said he believes agencies can get along fine without Congress delineating their cybersecurity responsibilities.

"By all accounts, there's a consensus that the role in domestic things is clear: If somebody hacks into a power company [and] disrupts the electrical flow, the FBI would take the lead on the criminal aspect of that unless it's a nation-state...and then the rules are different," he said. "We see more debate than is necessary on this. Let's solve the problem of who gets to worry about their side of the ledger because it's pretty clear."

NEXT STORY: Cybersecurity: Whom do you trust?

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