Bill to promote cybersecurity chief moves forward

Bill to promote cybersecurity chief moves forward

A House subcommittee today approved a bill that would elevate the Homeland Security Department's cybersecurity director to the level of an assistant secretary in the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity passed HR 285, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2005, by unanimous voice vote. The bill specifies that the assistant secretary for cybersecurity will lead the directorate's National Cybersecurity Division. It calls for the division to identify threats and vulnerabilities, reduce vulnerabilities, launch warning systems and respond to cyberattacks.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a subcommittee member, had introduced similar legislation earlier this year along with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who formerly chaired a now-superseded Select Committee on Homeland Security subcommittee in the 108th Congress. The two lawmakers helped move a similar bill out of committee last year, but it was blocked by opponents who contended that cybersecurity and physical security oversight should remain linked.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) offered and withdrew an amendment that would have mandated a study of the department's cybersecurity activities and possible reorganization. Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has serious doubts about the wisdom of elevating the cybersecurity slot to the assistant secretary level, according to his staff.

"Chairman Davis believes Congress gave DHS broad reorganization powers, and he will not support the legislation unless the secretary of Homeland Security supports it," said Melissa Wojciak, the committee's staff director, at a panel discussion sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management in Washington.

"The position, the chairman believes, may duplicate some of what" the Office of Management and Budget does, Wojciak said.

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