DHS struggling to keep up with cyber mission

(Department of Homeland Security / Flickr)

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The Department of Homeland Security is showing signs that it may not have the resources to keep up with its continually expanding responsibilities.

CyberScoop reports that although the department has made significant progress on programs designed to defend federal networks from malware, many key leadership positions remain unfilled, the hiring process for new talent is dangerously slow and the enterprise cybersecurity strategy that was due in March is now six months late with no estimate of when it will be complete.

“I understand the Trump administration did not fill leadership positions relevant to the DHS cybersecurity strategy with any real sense of urgency, and ongoing vacancies may be contributing to the delays. But the strategy is six months overdue and that is not acceptable,” Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., said during a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

The hearing continued a drumbeat of congressional criticism during the last several months that the Trump administration has neglected the importance of cybersecurity. One estimate places the number of cybersecurity positions that remain unfilled across the federal government at 10,000. In addition, seven members of the 28-person National Infrastructure Advisory Council resigned in August to protest what they characterized as Trump’s “insufficient attention” to national cybersecurity issues.

According to Christopher Krebs, the senior official performing the duties of the undersecretary of DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, a departmentwide cybersecurity strategy will have to wait for DHS to first complete assessments of federal networks, critical infrastructure, and cyber workforce requirements as called for in President Trump’s executive order on cybersecurity, signed in May.

“While those assessments and reports are underway, they are anticipated to have significant impacts on some of the priorities perhaps of the department, including NPPD,” Krebs said. Those reports, including the administration’s broader national security strategy, are likely several months away from being completed.

“We cannot expect DHS to carry out these responsibilities with both hands tied behind its back,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. “To be successful, the department needs adequate resources, a robust staff, strong leadership and a clear strategy.

Read more about Tuesday’s hearing on CyberScoop. 

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CyberScoop, Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
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