A key Senate panel on Wednesday advanced legislation to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that includes a measure reorganizing the department’s cybersecurity wing.
The bill includes language that would reorganize and rename the office within the department that protects federal networks and critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats, currently known as the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD). Under the legislation, the entity would be transformed into an operational agency called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the legislation at a meeting Wednesday.
“This bill now includes a key reorganization for DHS, transforming the National Protection and Programs Directorate into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who chairs the committee, said in a statement.
“Establishing an agency within DHS to focus on cyber and infrastructure security will help DHS achieve its missions.”
The effort to reorganize Homeland Security’s cyber efforts has long been a priority of House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas). The House passed a stand-alone bill on it last December. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has expressed support for the measure.
The Senate committee also approved several amendments to the Homeland Security reauthorization bill, including multiple cybersecurity-related measures.
For instance, the committee approved amendments that would set up a pilot “bug bounty” program to catch vulnerabilities in Homeland Security networks; direct the department to report on potential the threats of blockchain technology; and set up a pilot “talent exchange” program to get private sector cybersecurity workers into the department.
However, the bill approved Wednesday does not include measures to address election cybersecurity. Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) planned to introduce an amendment addressing to the issue to the bill, but Lankford was forced to withdraw the amendment after some secretaries of state expressed concerns.
The measure was aimed at improving information sharing between Homeland Security and state election officials on cybersecurity threats to U.S. voting infrastructure.