Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano named cybersecurity a top priority for what she called DHS 3.0 during a talk at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
Just ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the founding of the Department of Homeland Security, Napolitano — calling the early days of the department “DHS 1.0,” and the last four years as “DHS 2.0” — looked to outline a vision for the future of DHS, which she called “DHS 3.0”.
“Now, there’s perhaps no better example of how DHS has evolved to address new and evolving threats than the issue of cybersecurity”, said Napolitano.
“The cyber realm wasn’t even a major priority of the early department, and now it is one of our core mission areas”, she told audience members. “Cybersecurity has come to affect almost every aspect of modern life.”
“All of us depend on cyber-controlled systems for energy, communications, transportation and defense,” she said.
President Barack Obama signed a cybersecurity executive order on February 12 that was cautiously lauded by lawmakers who expressed concern over the regulatory burden the order could place on businesses. DHS, however, has played an active role in Obama’s cybersecurity strategy.
“Over the past four years, we have built and deployed systems to detect intrusions and defend federal cyber networks”, Napolitano said.
“We’ve expanded our 24/7 watch center, the N-Kick; we have comprehensive plans in place to manage cyber incidents; and to stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats and technology, we are moving aggressively to recruit, educate and train our cyber workforce for the future with the skills and talents we need to tackle this problem in the years ahead,” she said.
The N-Kick, or National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), was launched in 2009 as a consolidation of DHS’ cybersecurity and communications efforts.
Other priorities of the next evolution of the department, Napolitano said, were: trade; travel; immigration; and public engagement. New technologies also played a significant role in the future development of the department, including the use of biometric data to identify potential terrorists.
Napolitano also praised the department’s fusion centers, which a 2012 Senate report determined were a waste of taxpayer money that produced intelligence of little-to-no value.
In October 2012, Obama signed an executive order that expanded DHS’s ties to local law enforcement; in November 2012, New Jersey local law enforcement were reportedly gearing up with DHS funded surveillance equipment to monitor likely targets of a terrorist attack.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, in a December 2012 report, criticized DHS for spending department money on “zombie apocalypse training”, which have recently become a more popular form of disaster scenario training for emergency first responder teams.
The HALO Corporation, which held the training sessions in question, responded to Coburn’s criticism by denying that any taxpayer money was spent on the training.