The Department of Homeland Security is crossing its fingers and hoping there are more out there like Undersecretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Phyllis Schneck.
During a Tuesday budget hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called Schneck’s move from the private sector to government a “phenomenon,” due to the agency’s difficulties recruiting top-level cyber experts to work for the feds.
“We are competing in a tough marketplace against the private sector that is in a position to offer a lot more money,” Johnson said. “We need more cyber talent without a doubt – in DHS, in the federal government and we are not where we should be right now.”
Schneck joined the DHS in 2013 after working at McAfee (now Intel Security) as vice president and chief technology officer. Committee ranking member Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware said Schneck’s longstanding expertise in cybersecurity made her a poster child for the type of employee the government needs more of.
“The reason why [she joined the DHS], when I talked to her about it, was that she felt an obligation or desire to give back to her country,” Carper said. “In this case, there is something to be said about appealing to people’s patriotism.”
Carper was the only committee member who specifically asked about the department’s proposed $1.6 billion spend on cybersecurity, or President Barack Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which includes various goals to improve digital security across federal networks. Overall, the budget hearing saw little talk about cybersecurity during its two-hour discussion and mostly focused on border control and drugs smuggling.
Johnson said the cybersecurity money will go toward improving and building upon existing programs. DHS proposes to invest about $470 million into the Einstein program, according to his written testimony, despite multiple claims the tech is too old to work. The Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program would also receive $274.8 million to strengthen “.gov” networks’ security.
December’s cyberattack on the Ukrainian power grid “should be and must be a wakeup call,” Johnson also said.
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