DHS mulls shift in cyberczar's power

Homeland Security Department officials are reviewing the status of their cybersecurity chief, a position now vacant following the abrupt resignation of Amit Yoran See GCN story.

Secretary Tom Ridge said yesterday at an industry meeting that the cybersecurity position would be upgraded to the status of assistant secretary.

But this morning, a DHS spokesman said department officials are reviewing legal issues surrounding the possibility of creating a new assistant secretary slot.

'We don't know the details,' spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said. 'The secretary indicated his desire to elevate the status of the current cybersecurity [chief]. However, we have not finalized those details and have a number of options under consideration.'

He added, 'As our organization continues to evolve, we have come to the conclusion that that position needs to be elevated. But we need to evaluate how cybersecurity interacts with physical security.'

DHS officials previously have worked to soften the impact of policy decisions Ridge has blurted out in unexpected places. In July, Ridge unexpectedly announced on a trip in Pennsylvania that the Computer Aided Passenger Prescreening System II project would be canceled. Headquarters officials subsequently backpedaled, saying CAPPS II would be overhauled rather than cancelled.

However, by late August, DHS officials had unveiled the Secure Flight project see GCN coverage here to build a system with a totally different technical approach than CAPPS II.

The proposal to upgrade the cybersecurity leadership job met with approval from backers of legislation in Congress to do so and from other observers, reportedly including Yoran himself.

However, approval for the move was not unanimous. James Carafano, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said, 'I am not terribly in favor of it. In terms of the department's organization, cybersecurity needs to be part of the responsibilities of the chief information officer. You need to think of IT infrastructure holistically.' Carafano said federal homeland security planners shouldn't separate the development of the department's infrastructure with planning and policy development for national cybersecurity.


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