Senate committee approves bill reorganizing Homeland Security’s cyber office

Senate committee approves bill reorganizing Homeland Security’s cyber office
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A key Senate panel on Wednesday advanced legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that includes a measure reorganizing the department’s cybersecurity wing. 

The bill includes language that would reorganize and rename the office within the department that protects federal networks and critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats, currently known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). Under the legislation, the entity would be transformed into an operational agency called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the legislation at a meeting Wednesday.

“This bill now includes a key reorganization for DHS, transforming the National Protection and Programs Directorate into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Wis.), who chairs the committee, said in a statement.

“Establishing an agency within DHS to focus on cyber and infrastructure security will help DHS achieve its missions.”

The effort to reorganize Homeland Security’s cyber efforts has long been a priority of House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 Pelosi joins pressure campaign on Huawei Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars MORE (R-Texas). The House passed a stand-alone bill on it last December. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Acting DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena MORE has expressed support for the measure.

The Senate committee also approved several amendments to the Homeland Security reauthorization bill, including multiple cybersecurity-related measures. 

For instance, the committee approved amendments that would set up a pilot “bug bounty” program to catch vulnerabilities in Homeland Security networks; direct the department to report on potential the threats of blockchain technology; and set up a pilot “talent exchange” program to get private sector cybersecurity workers into the department.

However, the bill approved Wednesday does not include measures to address election cybersecurity. Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses GOP confident of win on witnesses MORE (R-Okla.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates Sanders is a risk, not a winner House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Calif.) planned to introduce an amendment addressing to the issue to the bill, but Lankford was forced to withdraw the amendment after some secretaries of state expressed concerns.

The measure was aimed at improving information sharing between Homeland Security and state election officials on cybersecurity threats to U.S. voting infrastructure.