GAO: Still not enough work on cybersecurity

Though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made strides in its cybersecurity efforts, the agency has not adequately addressed any of its key responsibilities in that area, an assertion the agency disputed, according to a Thursday report from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO praised DHS for establishing a computer emergency readiness team with stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as for setting up information sharing forums for federal and law enforcement officials. The department, however, has failed to address in full any of its 13 responsibilities, including the development of a national plan for critical infrastructure protection and identifying cyber threats and vulnerabilities, the GAO said.

The agency recommended that DHS engage stakeholders to prioritize cybersecurity responsibilities. The report (GAO-05-434) also called on the department's National Cyber Security Division (NCSD) to draft a list of activities that will help it address challenges that are slowing progress and come up with identity performance measures and milestones it can reach.

DHS agreed that "much remains to be done" on cybersecurity, but the agency took umbrage with the assertion that actions "have prevented us from achieving significant results in improving the nation's cyber security posture," Steven Pecinovsky, DHS liaison to GAO, wrote on May 3 in response to a draft version of the GAO report.

The department also agreed that prioritizing with stakeholders is "critical," but said that the NCSD already has a prioritized list of activities and goals that are updated on a quarterly basis. GAO "does not explain why these efforts are insufficient or what specific actions GAO would like to see accomplished," Pecinovsky wrote. DHS already has identified performance measures and milestones and "implemented procedures to systematically track organizational progress," he said.

House Homeland Security Chairman Christopher Cox, R-Calif., said the report affirms that "the status quo does not serve our cyber security needs." DHS needs to work harder at coordinating from within on cyber security, he said. "The nation needs a principal federal authority on cyber security to secure this vital component of our national infrastructure."

The Homeland Security Department reauthorization bill, H.R. 1817, sponsored by Cox and passed by the House would create an assistant secretary for cyber security within the department.

Homeland Security ranking Democrat Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said in a statement that the report shows "the [Bush] administration has not done enough to build [DHS'] credibility as the leader of our cyber security efforts. So much of our daily lives -- from our banking to our water and electricity supplies -- rely on a strong cyber infrastructure."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who also sits on the committee, agreed. "The department needs to be advancing on cyber security," she said. "We cannot afford to sit back and make minimal, if any, progress in critical infrastructure protection."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.