Bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS heads to Trump's desk

Bill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS heads to Trump's desk

A bill that will solidify the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) role as the main federal agency overseeing civilian cybersecurity is heading to President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE's desk.

The House on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to establish a new cybersecurity agency, known as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), that is the same stature as other units within DHS, such as Secret Service or FEMA.

The bill will also rebrand DHS’ main cybersecurity unit, known as National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency. That means that the headquarters will be a full-fledged operational component of DHS.

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The legislation passed the Senate in a unanimous consent vote last month. The Senate had made some changes to an earlier version of the House-passed bill, which required it to be sent back to the lower chamber for final approval.

Members in the House passed the bill Tuesday in the first series of votes following last week's midterm elections.

Top DHS officials have been pushing for the bill to pass, arguing it would better communicate their mission to the private sector and help DHS recruit top cyber talent.

“Today’s vote is a significant step to stand up a federal government cybersecurity agency,” said DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump to attend World Economic Forum in Davos for second straight year Trump admin seeks to roll back Obama-era policy on school discipline: report Federal judge postpones further action on Trump's asylum ban MORE said in a statement. “The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving, and we need to ensure we’re properly positioned to defend America’s infrastructure from threats digital and physical. It was time to reorganize and operationalize NPPD into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."

NPPD's top cyber official, Christopher Krebs -- who would become the cyber agency's director under this bill -- echoed Nielsen.

“Elevating the cybersecurity mission within the Department of Homeland Security, streamlining our operations, and giving NPPD a name that reflects what it actually does will help better secure the nation’s critical infrastructure and cyber platforms," Krebs said in a statement. "The changes will also improve the Department’s ability to engage with industry and government stakeholders and recruit top cybersecurity talent.”

NPPD's top cyber official, Christopher Krebs -- who would become the cyber agency's director under this bill -- echoed Nielsen.

The bill, which stalled during the Senate earlier this year, is responsible for securing federal networks and protecting critical infrastructure from cyber and physical threats. 

NPPD has seen its responsibilities rapidly expand in the decade since its inception, most recently taking the lead on engaging with states to protect digital election infrastructure from sabotage following Russian interference in the 2016 election.