DHS reorganization creates new cybersecurity position
The move could mean more focus on cybersecurity issues
Chertoff, in the results of a review of the DHS structure he started after taking over as secretary in February, elevated the cybersecurity chief at the DHS several levels on the agency's organizational chart by creating a position of assistant secretary for cyber and telecommunications security. Several tech-oriented trade groups, including the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, have repeatedly called for an assistant secretary to raise the profile of cybersecurity issues at the DHS.
The DHS did not release information about when it expected to have an assistant secretary in place.
An assistant secretary will have the authority to set policy and pull private industry into collaborations with government, ITAA President Harris Miller said recently. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating," Miller said. "Have we made enough progress yet in those areas? The clear answer is no."
IT groups have also suggested that a higher-level position with more authority would stop high turnover among government cybersecurity chiefs. The last DHS cybersecurity director, Amit Yoran, lasted about a year on the job.
Miller applauded Chertoff's decision to create the new position. Four bills introduced in Congress this year had also called on the DHS to create an assistant secretary of cybersecurity.
The DHS, when it was created in January 2003, didn't "give adequate focus" to cybersecurity, Miller said. He said the assistant secretary should establish lines of communication between government and private industry. In many cases, private industry sees cyberattacks sooner than government agencies do, he said, and there needs to be a "sophisticated, real-time, highly trusted" information-sharing mechanism between government and private companies.
An assistant secretary will be able to tie together several cybersecurity efforts within government, added Jack Danahy, CEO of Ounce Labs Inc., an IT security vendor. "Now there will be one voice telling the industry what government wants to do," said Danahy, who serves on a software security working group at DHS.
But some security experts have questioned the value of an assistant secretary, saying that without greater leadership from the top levels of the Bush administration, a new position may not improve cybersecurity much.
"If you don't have a strategy, does it matter what you call them?" said James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington think tank. "Can you think of an assistant secretary who's an advocate in Washington?"
Lewis suggested "no" is the correct answer to both questions. He acknowledged, in a recent interview, that on a symbolic level, a higher-level position could raise the profile of cybersecurity issues, but in practice, "I don't know if it makes much of a difference."
Chertoff's reorganization includes a number of other changes at the DHS, including the hiring of a chief medical officer to address medical preparedness, and the assignment of chief intelligence officer duties to the DHS assistant secretary for information analysis. Chertoff noted in a speech that the DHS has 10 intelligence-generating offices, and the role of the chief intelligence officer will be to coordinate all DHS intelligence.
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance
- Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- The Truth About Virtual Computing for CAD
- If you're a user of graphics-intensive software such as 3D modeling, simulation and analysis, and visualization, you might be skeptical about moving to...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics
- "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Simplifying Product Design In A Complex World
- Product design engineering has moved far beyond the confines of ever-more powerful workstations. Companies can't afford to restrict projects to using only local... All Government IT White Papers
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Why Are Customers Really Deploying an NGFW? It seems every IT Security expert is talking about the NGFW, but what are people really doing? This webcast covers 5 real-world customer...
- Charting Your Analytical Future - "Making predictive analytics part of your business processes" Webinar This session will show how predictive analytics can be used throughout the organization by anyone looking for answers and how organizations can make...
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success!
- Transform Your IT Service Management Watch this webinar, to learn how EasyVista can increase IT productivity & efficiency and deliver streamlined & integrated IT Service & Asset Mgmt.
- All Government IT Webcasts