Committee advances bill to expand NPPD as cybersecurity agency

A House panel is backing a bid to rebrand and expand the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security as a separate agency.

Shutterstock image: Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

A House panel is backing the Department of Homeland Security's bid to rebrand the National Protection and Programs Directorate as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency Act of 2016 elevates the cyber protection operation within DHS to an agency with four separate divisions.  

"The job of mapping out a new agency is a complicated one," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the committee vote on the bill. But Thompson, the panel's ranking Democrat, said this "could help DHS chart a new course as we carry out its cyber infrastructure protection and emergency communications mission."

Under the bill, the new agency would have a cybersecurity division, infrastructure protection division, emergency communication division and the federal protective service. It would be led by an official with the title director of national cybersecurity at DHS,  and would coordinate with other agencies on all matters related to cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection policy and operations. 

McCaul said his bill "realigns and streamlines" the current cybersecurity and infrastructure protection mission at NPPD to "more effectively protect the American public…against cyber attacks that could cripple the nation."

The Cybersecurity Division would be in charge of coordinating with both federal agencies and the private sector to "reduce cybersecurity risks."

Committee passage of the bill came just a few days after NPPD chief Suzanne Spaulding told a DHS advisory committee meeting that "Congress doesn't seem to be buying" the reorganization plan.

"It is clear [NPPD] has outgrown its current organizational structure as just a headquarters component," Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) said.  With the creation of this agency, Langevin  said, the private sector would be able to get assistance from the new restructured office on major breaches.

Additionally, the Office of Biometric Identity Management, which provides technology for collecting and storing biometric data to federal, state and local law enforcement, would become its own entity within DHS. Currently, it is part of NPPD. 

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