Dems Press For Cyber/Telecom Security Czar

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives today released a report raising serious concerns about the Department of Homeland Security 's (DHS) ability to keep the country safe, with the lack of a once-discussed, high-level cyber/telecom security chief making it onto a list of 33 alleged "unfulfilled promises" (TelecomWeb news break, July 14).

A 40-page House Committee on Homeland Security investigative report - prepared for ranking member Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) - clearly touched on a wide number of items 13 Democratic representatives leveraged to question whether DHS is doing its job and whether aspects of U.S. security are in jeopardy. Item Number 13 involved the cyber security "promise" and the "security gap" allegation, which included the lack of a new cyber/telecom security chief.

According to the report, DHS promised to enhance warning and response times for possible cyber attacks, but the nation's critical infrastructure, including the Internet, will remain at risk until there's a better system for identifying such attacks and vulnerabilities.

It cited a Government Accountability Office study that maintained DHS analytical capabilities are still evolving and are not yet robust plus the department hasn't yet developed or deployed a national indications and warning architecture for infrastructure protection (to identify the precursors to a cyber attack) nor completed a national cyber-threat and business-sector vulnerability assessments.

The report, however, claimed one key corrective measure would be the intention disclosed by DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in July to reorganize DHS operations and to name several new high-level officers, including an Assistant Secretary for Cyber and Telecommunications Security. The new cyber/telecom czar will be charged with centralizing the coordination of efforts to protect the nation's technology infrastructure.

"In order to protect the nation from a potentially devastating cyber attack, the department must correct these problems," the House report stated. "The department can start by finally appointing an Assistant Secretary for Cyber & Telecommunications. Democrats on the Homeland Security Committee advocated the creation of this position for more than a year, and Secretary Chertoff finally created it during his reorganization of the department in July. However, during the last 6 months he still has not appointed a person to fill this important position. As a result, the department's focus on all aspects of cyber security has remained weak."

The new assistant secretary - envisioned to be a member of a new Directorate for Preparedness - is expected to be responsible for identifying and assessing the vulnerability of critical telecom infrastructure and assets; for providing timely, actionable and valuable threat information; and for leading the national response to cyber and telecom attacks. The upcoming appointment is seen as part of an effort to enhance and consolidate the DHS coordination and deployment of "preparedness assets" like personnel and other resources.

[Copyright 2005 Access Intelligence, LLC. All rights reserved.]

(TelecomWeb News Break -- 12/29/05)