Cyber, counterterror to be ‘cornerstones’ of DHS

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Thursday that improving the nation’s cybersecurity and protecting against terrorism remain two of the department’s “cornerstones” in the final year of the Obama administration.

“In the time left to me in office, I pledge all my energy to continue to protect the homeland and leave the Department of Homeland Security a better place than I found it,” Johnson said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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“As I have said many times, we are in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, requiring a whole new type of response,” he added. “We have moved from a world of terrorist directed attacks to a world that includes the threat of terrorist inspired attacks — in which the terrorist may have never come face to face with a single member of a terrorist organization, lives among us in the homeland, and self-radicalizes, inspired by something on the Internet.”

Among other steps, the Department of Homeland Security has “intensified our work” with state and local officials to be on guard against terrorism, Johnson said.

The department is also narrowing a program allowing millions of travelers to enter the U.S., in response to concerns that it could be exploited by foreign militants. And officials are “expanding” the way that they use social media to screen foreigners heading to the U.S., he said.

On the cybersecurity site, Johnson on Thursday said that he and President Obama are committed to making “tangible improvements” to the nation’s defense before the end of the year.

Much of that stems from a sweeping plan unveiled earlier this week, as part of the White House’s budget proposal. The proposal would spend more than $5 billion on new government defenses, including an IT overhaul across federal agencies. 

It would also double the number of advisers able to make “house calls,” Johnson said, to help private companies with “in-person, customized cybersecurity assessments” and recommendations.

The department is also planning to make sure all non-military federal agencies employ a new cyber monitoring system by the end of the year, and roll out the third generation of its Einstein detection system.