(House of Representatives video)

New Cyber Agency Challenges Old Institutional Divides for ‘Collective Defense,’ Says Manfra

The Department of Homeland Security’s newly established cyber agency will improve interagency partnerships as the U.S. focuses on a whole-of-government approach to countering cyber threats, according to testimony delivered Wednesday at a joint meeting of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection.

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“Our vision is to fully realize this national effort, challenging old organizational institutional divides across the federal government in between the public and private sectors that impede our ability to provide for a collective defense in cyberspace,” said Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the National Protection and Programs Directorate, which is being renamed under the new law. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, which was signed into law on Friday, reorganizes the NPPD into a new agency with the mission of protecting the security of the country’s cyber and physical infrastructure.

Manfra reported that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Defense Secretary James Mattis recently signed a joint memorandum on how DHS and DoD will secure the country from cyber threats. 

There are 99 civilian agencies that I’m responsible for assisting the cybersecurity. There are, in one sector alone, hundreds of thousands of companies that operate our water and wastewater treatment plants. So, there is a massive scope and scale in what we are trying to secure,” Manfra said.  

See: DoD Cyber Strategy: U.S. ‘Cannot Afford Inaction’ as Danger Increases

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), ranking member on the Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee, said that the DoD cyber budget outpaces DHS eight to one. 

“Right now, DoD has an $8 billion budget for cyber, given DHS has $1 billion for critical infrastructure. Considering that 85 percent of critical infrastructure is privately owned, how do we balance that?” Richmond asked. 

A majority of that funding does not go to U.S. Cyber Command, but instead to the development of weapons systems with cyber resilience and cybersecurity capabilities, according to testimony from Kenneth Rapuano, the assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security. 

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Rapuano’s opening statement warned of the cyber actions of the country’s strategic competitors, who “are conducting cyber-enabled campaigns to erode U.S. military advantages, threaten our infrastructure and reduce our economic prosperity.”

“In particular, we’re engaged in a long-term competition with China and Russia,” Rapuano said. “These states have expanded the competition to include persistent campaigns in and through cyberspace with activities that individually fall below the threshold of armed conflict, but collectively pose a long-term strategic risk to the nation, as well as our partners and allies.” 

 

Multimedia journalist James Cullum is Managing Editor of Homeland Security Today's Federal Pages. He has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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