Congress agrees to split off DHS cybersecurity unit

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had proposed to break out cybersecurity division from department's information analysis and infrastructure protection organization.

Congress has agreed to split the Homeland Security Department division focused on information analysis and infrastructure protection. The move elevates the department's cybersecurity missions.

In the department's fiscal 2006 spending measure, lawmakers agreed to divide the unit into two new components: the analysis and operations wing and the preparedness directorate. The House and Senate cleared the legislation last week, and President Bush is set to sign it into law Tuesday.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff proposed the changes in July, after a 90-day review of the department's organization. He agreed with calls from lawmakers and industry that the cybersecurity division should be removed from information analysis and infrastructure protection and that its director should be made an assistant secretary to focus more resources and attention on cybersecurity.

Congress backed the proposal, and the department's budget next year includes $93 million for the cyber division to continue exercises and outreach with the private and public sectors. The new assistant secretary also is charged with overseeing and coordinating security of the nation's telecommunication systems. Chertoff finalized the reorganization plan Oct. 1.

"The conferees strongly support cyber partnerships among federal, state, local agencies, and the private sector that demonstrate the ability to transfer technologies from federal laboratories and package them into tools, training, and technical assistance to meet and enhance the demands of ... end users," the House-Senate conference report on the spending measure said. The cybersecurity assistant secretary and the cyber division will report to the new preparedness secretary.

Lawmakers also funded other cybersecurity initiatives at the department, including $17 million for the science and technology division to research and develop devices that would prevent and respond to cyber attacks. The immigration and customs enforcement division received $5 million for its cyber-crimes center and investigative efforts.

The spending measure further included $532 million for other infrastructure protection and information security programs, which also will be moved to the preparedness directorate.

Among other programs, lawmakers allocated $112 million to gather information from the private sector and form partnerships to protect the country's critical infrastructure; $69 million to identify and analyze key assets; $20 million to continue building a machine that would simulate terrorist attacks or natural disasters; $14 million for surveillance equipment to combat a bioterrorist attacks; and $143 million to protect telecom systems.

For critical infrastructure initiatives, Congress directed the department to spend $50 million on the National Center for Critical Information Processing and Storage. The conference report said officials must use the money to continue developing the data center. They also said officials should spend $20 million on a database of the nation's key assets.