Chertoff asks for patience on cybersecurity

Federal civilian agencies need to work together more closely to coordinate their information technology network surveillance as part of the White House's major new cybersecurity initiative, Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday.

The full cybersecurity strategy will not be completed this year, Chertoff said.

"We are beginning our cyberstrategy," he said. "That will not be done this year, but I'm hoping we can get it, a cyber center, up and running, and have a full set of plans and a funding budget to move forward over the next several years to get to the next level of cybersecurity."

Chertoff, who released a statement after speaking with bloggers yesterday, provided details on President Bush's classified governmentwide cyber initiative that is estimated to cost multiple billions of dollars.

The federal government is "nibbling at the edges" of cybersecurity and needs to have a "game-changing approach," Chertoff said. "And part of that game-changing approach is to rationalize what we're doing in the federal domain, and get better control of what enters the federal domain so we can determine whether it's a threat or not."

"So I think the minimal thing we need to do is get our own house in order, federally. And that means herding all the different cats of the executive branch agencies into a kind of a single pen where we can have some capability of detecting what's coming in and out of the federal domain," Chertoff said.

Even DHS has shortcomings in cybersecurity. The department's component agencies operate their own cybersecurity programs. "Not all of them have the same level of capabilities?they don't have emergency watches up 24/7," Chertoff said.

DHS' "Einstein" program already performs IT network surveillance at the department, but it is not enough. "For a number of reasons, it's not as capable as it could be," Chertoff said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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