House panel prods Ridge on cybersecurity

Bipartisan leaders of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security today sent a letter to Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge pressing him for details on how the department is implementing cybersecurity policies and implying that the National Cyber Security Directorate should be elevated within the department.

The letter to Ridge came from Select Committee chairman Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), ranking committee member Jim Turner (D-Texas), Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development Subcommittee chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and subcommittee ranking member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The select committee members referred to the several hearings the panel has held in recent months on cybersecurity issues (Click for GCN story). Lawmakers have aired doubts and criticism regarding the pace and effect of the department's cybersecurity programs at the hearings, and expressed concern that the department is moving too slowly to implement the February 2003 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace.

The legislators told Ridge that while other parts of the federal government also have cybersecurity responsibilities, the committee has not yet received an initial DHS plan to measure progress and ensure adequate resources for cybersecurity.

Today's letter asked Ridge for a detailed plan for linking the department's program to the cyberspace strategy. As part of that request, the lawmakers told Ridge that they 'wish to ensure that the [National Cyber Security Division] is appropriately placed as an element within the Infrastructure Protection organization, perhaps reporting directly to the undersecretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, or to you.' The NCSD now is a functional unit lower down in the IAIP Directorate.

The letter also asked Ridge to comment on the effectiveness and organization placement of the NCSD. The lawmakers asked Ridge to respond by May 10.

DHS representatives were not immediately available to comment on the letter. The lawmakers told Ridge that they and the committee staff would review any classified portions of his response in a secure facility.

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