The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security (“HSC”) held a Wednesday morning hearing on “Cybersecurity: DHS’s Role, Federal Efforts and National Policy.” Archived video of the hearing is available here(Windows Media). A single panel appeared before HSC:
(2) Richard Skinner, Inspector General, DHS
(3) Gregory Wilshusen, Director, Information Technology, Government Accountability Office (“GAO”)
(4) Stewart Baker, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson, LLP
Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) discussed current Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) cybersecurity deficiencies and urged DHS to work with state, local and tribal governments, as well as the private sector, to ensure protection of national cyber infrastructure. Schaffer noted that improving cybersecurity is one of DHS’s top five mission goals. Skinner sees DHS, and particularly the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (“US-CERT”), as coming a long way since 9/11, but feels a lot more needs to be done, especially concerning five issues: (1) the program is still under the same leadership; (2) money was not in place to start building infrastructure until 2010; (3) DHS lacks any mechanism to enforce recommendations; (4) DHS must remember that it’s not in this alone and can partner with the private sector and other federal agencies; (5) DHS should improve outreach efforts, such as education and training. Wilshusen noted that some GAO recommendations were being implemented, but DHS still must do more. Similarly, Baker, acknowledged that DHS is acting, but it is not acting quickly enough and it needs more authority to adequately protect the nation’s cyber infrastructure.
US-CERT staffing served as another recurring concern throughout the hearing. Schaffer noted the difficulties inherent in trying to find people to fill open spots. The positions US-CERT is trying to fill require highly qualified, and thus highly competitive, hires. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) emphasized the importance of getting appropriately qualified people to fill DHS staffing requirements and supported the use of contractors to have access to more competitive hires who may not even consider applying for a lower paying federal job.