New DHS Chief Can Handle Cybersecurity Mission: Former Officials

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By Daniel R. Stoller

New Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke has the skills needed to carry out the department’s cybersecurity initiatives, two former DHS officials told Bloomberg BNA July 31.

Duke was appointed July 31 to replace former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who was tapped July 28 by President Donald Trump to be White House Chief of Staff.

Many large companies, such as Wells Fargo & Co. and Verizon Communications Inc., rely on the Department of Homeland Security to help protect U.S. critical infrastructure from cyberattacks. Critical infrastructure industries include the telecommunications, financial services, health-care, and other sectors vital to the U.S., according to the DHS. Additionally, many technology and security companies participate and rely on the department’s public-private cybersecurity threat information sharing program to help ward off cyberattacks.

Although Duke isn’t a cybersecurity specialist, she “is well-positioned to advance DHS’ cyber mission” because she has department experience and strong relationships with cybersecurity leaders in the department, Jonathan E. Meyer, cybersecurity partner at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP in Washington and former deputy general counsel at DHS, told Bloomberg BNA July 31.

Charles Allen, homeland security principal at The Chertoff Group in Washington and former under secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, told Bloomberg BNA July 31 that the U.S. “couldn’t ask for a stronger acting secretary at this stage.” Duke “is a strong leader” and won’t “hesitate to make government risk management decisions,” Allen, who worked with Duke during his tenure at DHS, said.

Duke will oversee all of the department’s homeland security activities beyond cybersecurity, including border security, emergency communications, immigration services, and disaster recovery.

DHS Cybersecurity Mission

DHS is responsible for “strengthening the security and resilience of cyberspace,” securing federal information security networks, promoting a DHS public-private sector cyberthreat information sharing program, providing support to train the U.S. cybersecurity workforce, among other issues, according to the DHS.

Duke’s skill set will work well with DHS Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications Jeanette Manfra, “who is currently charged with leading the cyber mission at DHS,” Meyer said. Manfra is the senior official performing the duties of the under secretary within the DHS National Protection & Programs Directorate, which has lead authority for the department’s cybersecurity mission.

They “complement each other” and can combine “their expertise to push DHS’s cyber agenda forward effectively,” he said.

Duke must strengthen relationships with owners and operators of critical infrastructure to combat rising cybersecurity risks, Allen said. Duke’s experience in the private sector as an acquisitions and business consultant will help

Duke “isn’t a four star general,” but she “will be very decisive and work with various security groups” in the private sector and within the department to carry out important cybersecurity initiatives and protect critical infrastructure, Allen predicted. Kelly is a retired Marine Corps. general.

Representatives for Duke didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s email request for comments.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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