GOP chair eyes DHS cyber reorganization bill next week

GOP chair eyes DHS cyber reorganization bill next week
© Greg Nash

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is hoping to see a key cyber reorganization bill introduced as soon as next week.

McCaul introduced similar legislation last year that would have replaced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit in charge of securing the nation’s cyber and physical infrastructure with a new, operational agency to handle cybersecurity. 

The bill advanced the committee in the last Congress but never went to the floor for a vote.

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At a national security event Wednesday, McCaul expressed optimism that the new bill — on which he has consulted the Trump administration — would advance to the Senate after being introduced in the House "in about a week."

“Because the administration supports this legislation, because we’ve been working with the department, that’s a different dynamic that we’re now seeing because now we have an administration that is fully supportive of this effort,” McCaul said at a forum hosted by Defense Daily.  

“This is not about turf wars within the executive branch over cyber jurisdiction,” McCaul said. “This is simply about making the department more effective in one of the most important missions it has.” 

Specifically, the bill would replace DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) with a new operational agency to handle cyber. McCaul’s committee submitted draft legislation to DHS back in March in order to solicit feedback from the new administration, an aide previously confirmed.

McCaul said Wednesday that companion legislation would be introduced in the Senate, though he didn’t offer any clues on timing.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon Whitehouse3 ways House Dems can fight climate change when sweeping policy is off the table Hillicon Valley: Trump eyes staff shake-up | Amazon taps NYC, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it will mean for DC | Tech firms buck Trump on cyber pact | Defense official warns against hacking back Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? MORE (D-R.I.), who also participated in the event, predicted that the bill could encounter hurdles in the Senate given what he described as lingering “credibility issues” with DHS in the chamber.

“It’s going to take some work,” Whitehouse said. “I lived this experience when I was the principal Democratic negotiator the last time we tried to put a comprehensive piece of cyber legislation through the Senate.” 

“There is — I’ll just be perfectly candid here — a very strong lingering distaste for, lack of confidence in the department of homeland security,” the senator said. 

Advocates for the legislation in the House, Whitehouse advised, should make sure that lawmakers in the Senate are up to speed on the progress made by DHS in cyber.