DHS, DoD Double Down on Cybersecurity

Photo: U.S. Air Force/ Cecilio Ricardo

The Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security have developed a new cybersecurity framework to better coordinate cybersecurity policies for the federal government.

The agreement, released in a memo yesterday, lays out broad guidelines for collaboration and cooperation between the two agencies in the area of cybersecurity, including personnel, equipment and facilities.

With the agreement, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates hope to “focus” national cybersecurity efforts, and to increase both agencies’ capabilities in the cyber-defense realm.

“Effective cybersecurity means protecting critical networks against a wide range of state and non-state actors that do not adhere to physical borders,” the leaders of the two agencies said in a joint statement released Wednesday.

The agreement aims to formalize processes to better protect U.S. cyber infrastructure, and to “increase the clarity and focus of our respective roles and responsibilities,” according to the Gates and Napolitano statement.

Beyond the expansive goals for collaboration between DoD and DHS, the framework also gets down to the nitty-gritty in terms of the agencies actually working together in the form of “joint operational planning.”

DoD analysts will work alongside DHS experts at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, and Napolitano’s department will embed at least one DHS official within the National Security Agency, which is under the purview of the Pentagon.

The cyber framework seems designed to make sure DoD and DHS are no longer sequestered in their own agency headquarters, sitting on mountains of unshared information.

And while both agencies have unique, discrete authority, Gates and Napolitano said they see benefits across the board.

“This structure is designed to put the full weight of our combined capabilities and expertise behind every action taken to protect our vital cyber networks, without altering the authorities or oversight of our separate but complementary missions,” according to their joint statement.

And they added that “leveraging vital technologies and personnel to serve both departments’ missions” would improve efficiency at both their agencies.

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