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Companies would be able to more easily interact with the Department of Homeland Security to battle cybersecurity incidents under a bill that passed the House by voice vote Dec. 11, former agency officials and cybersecurity pros told Bloomberg Law.
The DHS Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency Act ( H.R. 3359) would reorganize the agency’s cybersecurity and infrastructure operations and establish new leadership positions. The National Protection and Programs Directorate, which is currently responsible for handling DHS’ cybersecurity mission, will be renamed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The bill, as amended, would require the DHS secretary and other agency officials to better coordinate cybersecurity efforts with sector-specific agencies that protect critical infrastructure systems.
The DHS cybersecurity office restructure is being done, in part, due to high-profile data breaches that have struck at the core of U.S. companies. The 2014 Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., 2013 Target Corp., and 2016 Yahoo Inc. data breaches were all cited as reasons why House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has spearheaded the effort. The move will help streamline DHS’ ability to carry out its cybersecurity mission by helping it work better with private sector companies that are experiencing high-levels of data security incidents, former DHS officials and cybersecurity professionals said.
If the bill clears the Senate and is signed into law, it “will elevate the profile and autonomy of the cyber component of the DHS, which will allow the private sector to communicate directly with it more easily,” Jonathan E. Meyer, privacy and cybersecurity partner at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in Washington and former deputy general counsel at DHS under former President Barack Obama, told Bloomberg Law Dec. 11.
The reorganization is the first major congressionally directed change for the agency since 2005, although it was discussed internally in the administrations of both Obama and former President George W. Bush, James Norton, founder and president of policy consulting group Play-Action Strategies LLP in Washington and former deputy assistant secretary of legislative affairs at DHS under Bush, told Bloomberg Law Dec. 11.
The reorganization effort was introduced “in the last year of the Obama administration and had bipartisan support at the time,” Norton said.
The bill shouldn’t run into any major hurdles in the Senate, where companion legislation hasn’t been introduced. President Donald Trump’s administration, including White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, has supported the legislation.
“It’s pretty clear the President will sign the bill if Congress passes it,” Paul Rosenzweig, senior fellow at public policy research group R-Street Institute in Washington and former deputy assistant secretary for policy at DHS under Bush, told Bloomberg Law Dec. 11. The bill will likely be “rolled up into any other bill as part of the end of the year push.”
DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen put her support behind the bill and urged the Senate to pass similar legislation. U.S. ‘‘critical infrastructure can often be prime targets for adversaries of all types,’’ Nielsen said in a Dec. 11 statement. As threats grow in size and scope, DHS’ approach to security must evolve,’’ she said.
Some companies may see immediate changes if they are already working with DHS officials on their cybersecurity protections, former officials and security pros said. The reorganization will also give companies long-term benefits as the DHS focuses more on private-sector cybersecurity across multiple industries, they said.
The changes will help the DHS “adapt more easily to the private sector’s needs,” Meyer said. The agency’s “new autonomy will benefit the private sector in the long run, because it will lead to high level, more focused attention on cybersecurity” for U.S. companies, he said.
The new DHS cybersecurity agency could jump start the private sector-DHS cyberthreat information sharing program established by the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in 2015, Norton said.
The agency “still lacks the trust and credibility needed” to effectively “become the information sharing center of gravity for the federal civilian government and private sector,” he said.
Building private sector trust in the DHS’ cybersecurity mission, including the sharing program, has been an ongoing challenge. The reorganization gives DHS the opportunity to interact with the private sector to increase trust in its cybersecurity mission, Rosenzweig said.
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Text of H.R. 3359 is available at http://src.bna.com/uRn.
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