The effort to install a cyber-security czar in Washington gained momentum last week when a bill that would create a new assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security won the approval of a House subcommittee.
The industry, particularly the security software sector, has long pressed for the appointment of a top-level government official dedicated to cyber-security. Ever since Richard Clarke left his advisory position at the White House in early 2003, the responsibilities have fallen to individuals who, while competent, did not wield sufficient power to get things done, said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, in Washington.
“When you look at the balance of the responsibilities that DHS has in cyber-security, it is silly to think this could be handled with anything less than an assistant secretary,” Kurtz said.
Elevating the status of the cyber-security post would give whoever fills it the clout to coordinate policies and practices across federal agencies and to ensure they are carried out in a timely fashion, he said.
The House bill, authored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, would create an assistant secretary for cyber-security in DHS Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate. The assistant secretary would guide the work of identifying threats and vulnerabilities, institute a warning system, be prepared to respond quickly to a cyber-attack, and oversee the National Communications System.
Many in industry and government have complained that officials in charge of cyber-security have shown an understanding of work that needs to be done and a willingness to do it but that their Opinions have not been heeded by key decision makers.
“DHS must work hand in hand with the private sector—not only because the majority of technical infrastructure is owned privately but also because the private sector is at the forefront of innovative, productive and efficient technologies to secure cyber-space,” said Dan Lungren, R-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity, which passed the bill.
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