Making the case (again) for renaming NPPD

The directorate's name change is about more than a title, say DHS leaders working with critical infrastructure sectors.

Chris Krebs NPPD undersecretary

Christopher Krebs, the senior official performing the duties of undersecretary at NPPD, is one of several executives arguing for a long-sought reorganization.


The long-sought name change and reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate would give it a crucial foot in the door not only with cybersecurity issues, but on a converging and emerging physical threats as well, according to the agency’s leadership.

“NPPD is helping to lead the charge on soft-target security preparedness,” DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a March 1 speech at the agency’s Critical Infrastructure Summit. Terrorists and violent criminals have become fixated on soft targets such as large gatherings, public events and locations because they can maximize their anticipated damage, she said.

NPPD, Nielsen said, is the fulcrum for many of the agency’s resources to help prevent such attacks, providing information and programs for awareness, prevention and mitigation for local communities, governments and law enforcement.

It is also the focal point for DHS efforts to help protect the sprawling 16 critical infrastructure areas -- including electrical grids, financial systems, water systems and the recently added election systems -- from cyberattack.

The DHS authorization bill that could be considered by the Senate next week will include a measure, proposed and passed in the House, to reorganize and rename NPPD as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency.   DHS officials have said the new name is much more understandable for the public and the critical infrastructure industries it works with. The proposal also would allow DHS to exercise key cybersecurity authorities and establish an agency within DHS to focus on cyber and infrastructure security.

In his remarks at the summit, Christopher Krebs, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary at the directorate, said the name NPPD makes the directorate's work harder.

The name, he said, didn’t help as the agency moved to designate state election systems as national critical infrastructure in the last days of the Obama administration.

“We learned that very clearly last year with the election infrastructure subsector,” said Krebs, as he welcomed election industry coordinating council members to their first DHS infrastructure summit.

“First and foremost, it will put a sign on the door describing what it is we do,” said Krebs of the new name.  Despite the directorate’s work with infrastructure providers over the last 10 years to protect their facilities, “there are still stakeholders out there that don’t know who we are or what we do.”

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