Obama has proposed legislation that will give the Department of Homeland Security more “autonomy” in its effort to protect civilian computer networks from ostensible cyber attack, according to Information Week.
White House officials testified Monday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs about the comprehensive plan presented by the administration two weeks ago to create legislation to protect critical infrastructure and networks. It will merge operations with the Pentagon.
“One key aspect of the plan is to put the DHS’s mission to protect U.S. federal civilian networks on par with the DOD’s mission to protect U.S. military networks, giving the DHS more autonomy to act against cyberthreats on behalf of the government than before,” writes Elizabeth Montalbano for the technology publication.
DHS has also sought to merge the effort with the NSA and various civilian operations.
Last October, the Obama administration adopted new procedures for using the Defense Department’s vast array of cyberwarfare capabilities in case of an attack on vital computer networks inside the United States, “delicately navigating historic rules that restrict military action on American soil,” according to the New York Times.
According to the Times, a team of military networking experts would be assigned to the operations center at the Homeland Security Department. The new approach will begin with a Department of Homeland Security team deploying to Fort Meade, Maryland, home to both the National Security Agency, which specializes in electronic espionage, and the military’s new Cyber Command.
At the time, government officials said the new rules contain “a rapid response to a cyberthreat while balancing concerns that civil liberties might be at risk should the military take over such domestic operations,” in other words the government announced effort to protect against the hyped threat of cyber terrorism would require a sacrifice of liberty.
The DHS plan announced on Monday will give “the DHS – recognizing our similar role to DOD with regard to federal civilian networks – similar authority with regard to personnel so we can bring them on board rapidly,” Philip R. Reitinger, deputy undersecretary for the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, told Congress.
The plan also gives DHS “much clearer authority and responsibility to work in a voluntary way” with the private sector, something it already has been doing, Reitinger added.
In 2009, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman sidestepped answering if the Pentagon’s cyber command would be capable of offensive operations as well as protecting the Department of Defense. “This command is going to focus on the protection and operation of DoD’s networks,” he said. “This command is going to do what is necessary to be able to do that.”
In 2006, a Pentagon document entitled the Information Operation Roadmap was released to the public after a Freedom of Information Request by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
It states that the Pentagon has developed a “robust offensive suite of capabilities to include full-range electronic and computer network attack… We Must Fight the Net.”