White House officials testified Monday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about the comprehensive plan laid out by the administration nearly two weeks ago to create legislation to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and networks. A video of the hearing is available online.
One key aspect of the plan is to put the DHS’s mission to protect U.S. federal civilian networks on par with the DOD’s mission to protect U.S. military networks, giving the DHS more autonomy to act against cyberthreats on behalf of the government than before.
While the DHS has certainly been at the forefront of federal cybersecurity initiatives, working with the private sector and other agencies such as the DOD and the National Security Agency to share information and make policy, the administration’s plan would solidify this role through legislation, officials said.
“[The proposal] strengthens DHS’s role to deploy more rapidly intrusion protection, intrusion prevention, and other mechanisms for the federal government,” said Philip R. Reitinger, deputy undersecretary for the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, in what was likely his last appearance before the committee. Reitinger resigned his post last week and will leave the department June 3.
“It gives the DHS–recognizing our similar role to DOD with regard to federal civilian networks–similar authority with regard to personnel so we can bring them on board rapidly,” he said. After Reitinger’s departure, Greg Schaffer, assistant secretary of the DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, will become acting deputy undersecretary.
The plan also gives DHS “much clearer authority and responsibility to work in a voluntary way” with the private sector, something it already has been doing, he added.
Robert Butler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, also testified about the new relationship the plan would create between his department and DHS, and acknowledged the new cybersecurity authority of the DHS that the plan would bring.