GOP chair urges passage of Homeland Security cyber legislation

GOP chair urges passage of Homeland Security cyber legislation
© Greg Nash

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulA change is coming to US-Mexico relations Hillicon Valley: Justices uphold Trump travel ban | Tech's response | Accused NSA leaker enters guilty plea | Dems press for more info on OPM breach | Senators press Trump to uphold ZTE ban | New hacking threat to satellites Rising concerns over hackers using satellites to target US MORE (R-Texas) is urging swift passage of a bill that would reorganize a key prong of the government’s defense against cyberattacks, citing compounding threats to U.S. critical infrastructure.

The bill would reorganize and rename the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) office that secures civilian federal networks and critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats, transforming it from a headquarters component into a stand-alone agency. 

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“With the advancement of technology and our increased dependence on computer networks, nation states, hackers, and cybercriminals are finding new ways to target our critical infrastructure,” McCaul said in a statement Wednesday. “To ensure the continued success and strength of DHS’ cyber mission, we must remain laser focused to more effectively streamline and enhance vital cybersecurity operations.”

McCaul has led a multiyear push to reorganize the office, currently called the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). His stand-alone bill to reorganize and rename NPPD the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency passed the House in December.

A Senate bill reauthorizing Homeland Security includes language that would reorganize the cyber office, and was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this month. The upper chamber has yet to take up the legislation for a vote. 

Meanwhile, Homeland Security officials have been advocating for the bill, saying the reorganization and name change will allow them to better execute their cyber mission and recruit and retain personnel.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress and the Administration to get this to the President’s desk as soon as we can,” McCaul said Wednesday.

NPPD is responsible for working with operators of critical infrastructure — including companies in the financial, energy and manufacturing sectors — to protect against and respond to cyberattacks. Officials are also engaging with state officials to protect digital voting infrastructure from cyber threats, following Russian interference in the election.

McCaul's statement comes following revelations about Russian cyberattacks on the U.S. energy grid, which have heightened fears of threats to critical services. 

Lawmakers are slated to return to Washington on April 9.