McCaul optimistic on DHS cyber reorganization

The House Homeland Security Committee chairman is preparing to reintroduce legislation to reorganize the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber directorate, and he believes forces are aligning to get it passed.

 

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee will take another shot at reorganizing the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate into a new cybersecurity agency.

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said at Defense Daily's National Security Forum in Washington that he is about a week away from filing legislation "to reorganize the Department of Homeland Security's efforts into a single cybersecurity agency that will have a mission and a priority that they've never really seen before."

McCaul filed similar legislation in 2016 that stalled on the Hill, but he believes forces are aligning favorably this year. He pointed to the greater sense of urgency around cyber given recent and ongoing attacks, and said he's been working closely with DHS on the new bill.

"I think that enhancing the capability of DHS is one of my important missions through my oversight responsibilities," McCaul said. "I think they have gotten a lot better in the 12 years I've been in office, but they could be better than they are.

"So we want to build up their capabilities, we want to build up their relationship with the private sector and really make this a team effort," he said.

McCaul added that there is a different dynamic because the Trump administration strongly supports the effort to reorganize DHS around cyber.

The administration's budget proposal gives NPPD a $196 million funding boost over 2017 levels. The proposal includes $971 million "to improve security of the U.S. cyber infrastructure in collaboration with public, private, and international partners," $279 million for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, $397.2 million EINSTEIN, and $56.5 million for Next Generation Networks.

The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center would receive nearly $50 million "to execute new authorities under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, including providing Federal governance and training, and cyber engineering assistance to Federal departments, agencies, and individual stakeholders."

McCaul said one of the challenges to moving the legislation through the House is the complicated jurisdiction of DHS oversight. But he said he's optimistic that he'll be able to overcome the jurisdictional hurdles and get the legislation to the House floor.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who joined McCaul on the panel, said the legislation will face an uphill battle in the Senate.

"There is a very strong lingering distaste for, lack of confidence in the Department of Homeland Security, that it's just a big unruly beast that shouldn't be trusted with stuff, can't be trusted with stuff, gets in its own way and so forth," he said.

Whitehouse stated that in recent years, the department has upped its game and has established more credibility among senators. But he added that House colleagues have work to do to make sure senators are updated on what DHS is doing and to convince them the agency has the credibility to lead civilian-agency cybersecurity.

McCaul said his colleagues will be working to educate the Senate that his reform legislation isn't about turf battles or taking authority from the NSA or other agencies. It is about making DHS "more effective in one of the most important missions that it has," he said.

"There is no hesitation on the Senate side in getting something done," Whitehouse said. "We do have to work through some senators who are mad at Homeland Security because of the way they were treated by TSA...those are some of the issues you have to work through."

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