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

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

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 NielsenFEMA administrator nearly quit amid feud with DHS chief: report DOJ looking into 'concerning' behavior by employee in Project Veritas video New Defense cyber strategy gives military power on preventative cyberattacks 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: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Perry welcomes efforts by Russia, OPEC to boost oil production The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Hurricane Florence a new test for Trump team MORE and Vice President Pence are among those attending.

The summit comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency 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.