DHS Rethinks Cybersecurity Role

Reversing its decision under pressure from lawmakers and the technology industry, the Department of Homeland Security (search) said Tuesday it supports appointing a new senior cybersecurity (search) chief higher in its organization with broader authority and more control over spending.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he supports the new position during a meeting with the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (search), private experts from the banking, transportation, energy and manufacturing industries.

Ridge told advisers he intends to elevate the cybersecurity job. No final decision on a new chief or his status has been made and different options are under review.

Some lawmakers and industry experts have pressed the Bush administration in recent months to give the U.S. cybersecurity chief more authority and money for protection programs. The intelligence reform bill passed in the House last week would create such a role for a new assistant secretary in Homeland Security.

The previous cybersecurity chief, Amit Yoran (search), resigned abruptly earlier this month, giving a single day's notice of his intention to leave. He kept the job one year. Yoran's position as director of the department's National Cyber Security Division (searchwas at least three bureaucratic steps below Ridge.

"This shows the department is listening to experts in the field and to industry, that they're structuring the organization going forward to be aligned with what is a growing threat to the nation," Yoran said.

The department has firmly opposed appointing an assistant secretary for cybersecurity, instead consolidating responsibility for protecting both physical structures and computer networks under Assistant Secretary Robert Liscouski.

Liscouski told an industry conference in Florida on Tuesday that he did not believe creating another assistant secretary's job was appropriate or imminent, defending the department's current approach as the most rational.