House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul announced plans Wednesday to push for the creation of a new federal agency during the Trump administration that would consolidate the government’s disjoined cybersecurity efforts. He said the eventual launch of such an agency will be one of his highest priorities in 2017.
“Today we are fighting a silent war in cyberspace with unlimited fronts. A new frontier if you will. And this year was a watershed year. Nation states, criminals, hacktivisits and terrorists are infiltrating our networks,” McCaul, R-Texas, said at an event at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative D.C.-based think tank. “Some want to embarrass us, others seeks to copy our innovation, steal our nation’s secrets and even undermine the very foundations of our republic.”
McCaul has introduced more cybersecurity-focused legislation into the 114th Congress than any other House member.
“The enemy is winning in this war. Hackers have been making off with your financial data, your healthcare information and just weeks ago we saw them shutdown major websites like Paypal and Twitter,” said McCaul. “Such attacks are only a fraction of what is possible.”
The new agency would be housed within the Homeland Security Department; working in part to bridge an information sharing gap that currently exists between the private sphere and federal government.
McCaul, who was recently endorsed by current Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to become his successor, called the department “dysfunctional” — a “broken bureaucracy” plagued with low morale and a convoluted mission.
“We need to start treating network security as national security,” McCaul told the room full of policy experts, journalists, security consultants and Capitol Hill staffers. “I propose a major reorganization and consolidation of our domestic cyber efforts into a single strong cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security.”
A veteran lawmaker once believed to be a favorite for the secretary of Homeland Security position, it looked as if McCaul missed out on the selection just hours after appearing before cameras in Washington.
President-elect Donald Trump said he will nominate retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to head the department, according to multiple news outlets, including The Washington Post.
Referencing recent cyberattacks that have been attributed to Russia by DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, McCaul said the data breaches should be a “wake up call and call to action.” Though this statement appears to counter previous comments Trump has made about Russia’s activities in cyberspace, McCaul emphasized that more needs to be done to punish bad actors, and “there needs to be consequences for these actions.”