House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulBiden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday again urged the Senate to pass legislation that would rename and reorganize the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber wing, citing compounding threats to U.S. interests in cyberspace.
The legislation would transform the Homeland Security unit responsible for defending federal networks and securing U.S. critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats — currently known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) — into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The House passed the bill — long a priority for McCaul — in December but it has since stalled in the Senate.
“With each passing day, the cyber threats facing our homeland continue to grow,” McCaul said in a statement Wednesday.
McCaul encouraged the Senate to take up the bill renaming NPPD, in addition to other pieces of legislation passed by the House, “so we can provide the direction and support needed to best combat an ever-evolving cyber threat landscape to keep the American people and our democracy safe and secure.”
NPPD, established at Homeland Security a decade ago, takes the lead on engaging with owners and operators of critical infrastructure — most of which are in the private sector — to protect the U.S. electric grid, banks, water systems and other critical assets from cyber and physical sabotage. The office has seen its responsibilities expand in a short period of time, most recently taking on the role of helping states secure their digital voting systems following Russian interference in the 2016 election.
McCaul has led a multiyear effort to pass legislation to rename and streamline operations at NPPD. Homeland Security officials say the name change is necessary to better recruit and retain talented personnel and improve engagement with stakeholders and other governments.
McCaul signaled Wednesday that the bill would help secure future elections from foreign meddling.
“Russia is not our friend, and we cannot allow anyone to undermine the confidence in our electoral process,” he said.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee approved the legislation as part of a broader package reauthorizing Homeland Security in March.
Despite repeated calls from Trump administration officials, the full Senate has yet to take up the legislation. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate facing 4 felony charges MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in April that a disagreement with the Senate Intelligence Committee had stood in the way of its passage. Lawmakers and aides have offered few details on what the disagreement is about.
McCaul on Wednesday urged the Senate to “quickly” pass the bill, in addition to others that would reauthorize Homeland Security and codify into law the department’s incident response teams that respond to cyberattacks.
His statement comes days after Vice President Pence urged the Senate to pass the legislation before the end of the year during remarks at a cybersecurity summit in New York.
“This agency will bring together the resources of our national government to focus on cybersecurity,” Pence said last Tuesday. “And it’s an idea whose time has come.”
This post was updated on Aug. 10 at 11:26 a.m.