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Congress leaves cybersecurity orphaned

Senior level officials at the Department of Homeland Security are still unclear over whether the infrastructure protection and cyber security programs will be tied together.

In the aftermath of a congressionally mandated reorganization, it is unclear whether the infrastructure protection and cyber security programs at the Department of Homeland Security will ever prosper.

The orphan groups have a lot of affinities with each other and not much to do with the rest of what was under the preparedness directorate.
Jamie Conrad,
assistant general counselAmerican Chemistry Council

Those programs had been part of the Directorate for Preparedness, which Congress, as part of the DHS 2007 appropriations bill passed at the end of September, moved into the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). The National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) is one of a handful of pieces of the directorate that will remain at the DHS.

Not even senior-level officials at DHS know where they are going to tether the orphan programs, according to an industry lobbyist who spent a day in meetings last month on that issue.

"Actually, I think this reorganization is probably good for the infrastructure protection folks and for us in critical infrastructures, said Jamie Conrad, assistant general counsel with the American Chemistry Council. "The orphan groups have a lot of affinities with each other and not much to do with the rest of what was under the preparedness directorate."

NCSD will be under closer scrutiny than usual in coming months as the division's new leader, Gregory Garcia, settles in. Garcia, the assistant secretary for cybersecurity and telecommunications, faces a number of challenges, not the least of which is getting the administration to pay more attention to cybersecurity. He also must work to shore up relationships with the private sector, some of which have lain fallow for more than a year in the absence of a leader in the NCSD.

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Garcia, a former vice president at the powerful Information Technology Association of America, has extensive contacts in the industry and a strong base of support in some corners.

"I think Greg is a fine choice for the assistant secretary position, and, given his background, he possesses great insight into the private sector perspective of cyber issues," said John McCarthy, director of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program at the George Mason University School of Law.

McCarthy was a candidate for the assistant secretary position earlier in the hiring process.

One Washington official who declined to be identified, calls the changes "colossally stupid." He adds: "If anything, FEMA should have been made part of the preparedness directorate, not the other way around."

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