Warning of continuing threats to U.S. interests across cyberspace, House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul on Wednesday again urged the Senate to pass legislation intended to rename and reorganize the Department of Homeland Security’s primary cyber protection wing.
The proposal, which the House passed in December, would streamline DHS’s primary operation currently overseeing the defense of federal networks and U.S. critical infrastructure from cyber threats, known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD).
The bill creates a stand-alone organization for that mission with a more logical name, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
“With each passing day, the cyber threats facing our homeland continue to grow,” the Texas Republican said in a statement Wednesday. “Cyber intruders, including nation states, hackers, and cybercriminals, are relentless in their pursuit to target our election and other critical infrastructure.”
Mr. McCaul noted that last week FBI Director Christopher Wray said the cyber threat “is not going away” and that Vice President Mike Pence also directly addressed the new CISA at a cybersecurity summit in New York last week.
“This agency will bring together the resources of our national government to focus on cybersecurity,” Mr. Pence said. “And it’s an idea whose time has come.”
Cyber experts have applauded the move. They say the NPPD has been overwhelmed in the wake of Russian maneuvers to meddle in the 2016 election and the fallout those efforts have had across the U.S.
They also say a clearer name for the agency will improve communications across the federal government, in addition to helping the new outfit recruit and retain talented personnel.
But since its passage in the House, the proposal has stalled in the Senate.
Mr. McCaul on Wednesday encouraged his Senate colleagues “to take up these key measures quickly so we can to 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.”
Late last month a major coalition of trade groups and tech companies also urged Senate leaders to pass the bill. The consortium included the American Gas Association, CTIA, the Cybersecurity Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council, TechNet and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Advancing this legislation in the Senate would be a win for policymakers, industry, and our communities,” they said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
They added that they would “support the addition of provisions to ensure that CISA’s processes to engage the private sector are robust and transparent.”