New Homeland Security unit will battle threats to critical U.S. assets

New Homeland Security unit will battle threats to critical U.S. assets
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The Department of Homeland Security is forming a new center to better protect U.S. critical assets — from financial institutions to the energy grid — from cyber and physical threats. 

Officials will announce the creation of the National Risk Management Center at a cybersecurity summit in New York on Tuesday, The Hill has learned.

Its establishment comes amid heightened fears of cyber threats to the U.S. energy sector and after officials revealed a broad campaign by Russian hackers to breach organizations involved in powering the U.S. electric grid.

The new center was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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The new center’s goal will be to bolster coordination between the federal government and private sector companies — which own and operate the vast majority of critical assets — and to improve the protection of critical infrastructure from potential threats, according to a document outlining its mission.

Homeland Security has long taken the lead on engaging with private companies to protect organizations across more than a dozen critical sectors — including chemical, manufacturing, nuclear, water and transportation.

Some in the private sector have criticized the federal government for being too slow to share information on potential threats, or not sharing enough.

“In response to the increasingly complex threat environment and corresponding demand from industry for greater integrated support from the U.S. federal government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is establishing a joint center to provide a centralized home for collaborative, sector-specific and cross-sector risk management efforts to better protect critical infrastructure,” the Homeland Security document states.

The center’s mission, it says, “is to provide a simple and single point of access to the full range of government activities to mitigate a range of risks, including cybersecurity, across sectors.” 

The new hub will go beyond information sharing, and will work with the private sector to develop a “collaborative risk management strategy” to help better secure critical assets. 

The center’s mission is guided by the “risk-based” approach repeatedly touted by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenClinton calls for people to sign petition to help DACA recipient detained by ICE Hillicon Valley: Nunes sues Twitter for 0 million | Trump links tech giants to 'Radical Left Democrats' | Facebook settles suits over ad discrimination | Dems want answers over spread of New Zealand shooting video Nielsen calls for greater public-private collaboration on cyber threats MORE and other top officials that focuses on protecting U.S. systems that, if sabotaged, would have devastating or cascading consequences. 

The center, through work with the private sector, will identify potential threats to critical infrastructure and prioritize those that pose the greatest threat. 

On Tuesday, top Trump administration officials will huddle with private sector representatives at the cybersecurity summit in New York. Nielsen, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Interior reverses decision at heart of Zinke criminal probe | Dem divisions deepen over approach to climate change | GM to add 400 workers to build electric cars Democrats have debate delusion that leaves them wildly outfoxed Say no to NOPEC to maintain a stable oil market MORE and Vice President Pence are among those attending.

The summit comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE’s White House continues to weather scrutiny for what critics see as a lack of focus on cybersecurity following Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

National security adviser John Bolton has also eliminated the top cybersecurity post at the White House to streamline management and reduce bureaucracy, prompting broad criticism from Democrats and some Republicans in Congress.