DHS cyber reorganization bill advances in House

DHS cyber reorganization bill advances in House

The House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would restructure how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) protects critical infrastructure from digital threats.

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"This bill removes bureaucratic barriers at DHS so it can more effectively carry out the authorities passed by Congress in the last two years,” Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) said in a statement.

The bill, authored by committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), would replace the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) within the DHS with a new operational agency tasked with protecting the computer networks that run the nation’s power grid, water utilities and more.

The proposed reorganization, in the works for over a year, has been a point of tension between the agency and Congress.

The DHS has pushed for a restructuring of the NPPD.

But an administration proposal leaked to the media over the summer drew ire from members who criticized the agency for pushing forward with the reorganization without involving lawmakers.

Ratcliffe on Wednesday hinted at the prevailing committee stance that the agency needs congressional authorization to go forward with the realignment.

“[The bill] provides a strong structure for the organization, improves collaboration between its divisions and elevates the cybersecurity mission, while also ensuring that mechanisms are in place for robust Congressional oversight,” Ratcliffe said.

While the administration proposal and McCaul’s offering would both replace the NPPD with the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency, there is one key difference between the two plans.

The DHS wants to integrate responsibility for cyber and physical security across the agency. McCaul’s bill would keep the cyber division separate from the agency’s mission to guard against physical threats.

The bill — the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency Act of 2016 — calls for risk assessments and joint working groups to mitigate the cascading fall-out between the cyber and kinetic world.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBiden racks up congressional endorsements Dem senators launch Environmental Justice Caucus Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (D-Del.), the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, has floated a draft proposal that hews closely to the administration proposal.