Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity Summit today, called upon Congress to pass long-delayed legislation that would officially create the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) under DHS.
“Today, we call on the United States Senate, to follow the lead of the House of Representatives and before the end of this year, enact legislation to create a new agency under the authority of DHS,” Pence said. “The time has come for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to commence.”
Pence said the need for Congress to pass the legislation reflects America’s need for “a central hub for cybersecurity.”
While the agency would be new in name, the legislation Pence endorsed is essentially a rebranding of the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), which is the cybersecurity wing of DHS that is also endowed with authorities to oversee the nation’s critical infrastructure security.
But the legislation has languished in Congress, and NPPD officials have long spoken of the effects of this in public appearances and Capitol Hill testimony, where DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and NPPD head Christopher Krebs have lobbied for the name change.
Krebs, along with Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary at DHS and another key NPPD leader, noted that the current organization’s name does not reflect the values or authorities of the organization and has led to difficulties in recruitment, engagement, enforcement, and the general presentation of authority on cyber matters.
They have campaigned unsuccessfully for months to push legislation forward to grant NPPD the new CISA moniker but are now receiving a firmer nudge through the executive branch.
Pence said funding that the administration has secured to bolster cybersecurity – an additional $1.2 billion for digital defense in its first year, with $15 billion requested for next year, he said – is not on its own enough to curb the threats.
“Over the last year, at the President’s direction, we’ve taken unprecedented action to strengthen our digital infrastructure and defenses, because we know that cybersecurity has never been more important to the American people,” Pence said. “In the face of these threats, the American people demand and deserve the strongest possible defense.”
The announcement follows numerous new developments announced by DHS at the summit today, including the standing up of a new National Risk Management Center and establishment of an Information Communications Technology Supply Chain Task Force within the center.