Should Homeland Security’s taskings to provide the nation with cybersecurity as well as to protect critical infrastructure from digital threats be combined? The Obama administration is proposing a reorganization that could do just that. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is leading the charge for the administration on Capitol Hill.
The Hill reports that Johnson told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing that the reorganization would “go a long way to addressing both cyber and the protection of critical infrastructure.” The proposal would eliminate the National Protection and Programs Directorate and replace it with a new agency. The goal is to eliminate bureaucratic barriers in DHS and to consolidate “responsibility for cyber and physical security” in one place.
The plan was leaked earlier this year and has run into opposition in the House of Representatives. The House’s version of the concept is similar, except it keeps cyber and physical security responsibilities separate.
“We need an agency for cybersecurity that directly aligns the cybersecurity function with the critical infrastructure function,” the Secretary told Senators.
Would an NPPD By Another Name Be as Sweet?
The National Protection and Programs Directorate currently includes the Federal Protective Service, the Office of Biometric Identity Management, the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis and the Office of Infrastructure Protection. The reorganization would provide increased authority and resources to the key elements of the NPPD, while possibly peeling away some of the tasks that could be better performed by other agencies in the DHS.
It is an election year. A new President and a new Congress take control in about seven months. It is likely that this reorganization, for good or ill, will probably not be acted upon until the new Administration. For now, the back and forth over cyber authority within DHS will continue.