Continued Debate Over a WH Cybersecurity Coordinator

In May of this year, the Obama Adminisration announced that it would appoint a Cybersecurity Coordinator, with the intent to give cybersecurity matters the attention that they deserve. However, several months removed from this announcement, the White House has yet to move forward on this promise. In terms of political impact, it would perhas be encouraging to see the White House fortify America’s electronic defenses. From a national security law perspective, however, it is essential that the White House move forward. In light of recent reports and testimony from Administration officials, the current body of cybersecurity law appears insufficient for providing law enforcement and intelligence with needed guidance and tactical flexibility.

While the Department of Homeland Security has moved forward in establishing a cybersecurity center, Senate debate over the role of the proposed WH-appointed Coordinator remains unresolved. Senator Lieberman (I-CT), voicing concern about potential conflict between the Cybersecurity Coordinator and DHS, has highlighted the administrative difficulties that could arise from such an appointment. Earlier this fall, Senator Collins (R-ME) took a more stringent stance, voicing her opposition to the position.

Amid dealing with a possible troop increase for Afghanistan, the recent Fort Hood massacre, and continued challenges stemming from the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, the Obama administration is already beset by more conventional security matters. Also, the oversight concerns raised in Congress also provide reason as to why executive delay is understandable. Nevertheless, earlier November reports of a possible appointment by Thanksgiving beg the question: how much longer?

Reid asks DHS to Call off Las Vegas Exercise

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, recently asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to call off the 2010 National Level Exercise in his home state. The scheduled activities are scheduled to occur in Las Vegas. These training activities are designed to prepare first responders for a scenario in which a nuclear weapon would be denoted.

The plan involves 10,000 local, state, and federal officials in Nevada and an additional 15,000 would take part in other parts of the country. The drill is supposed to simulate a 4.5-kiloton blast and have first responders and officials respond to it while attempting to thwart a potential second attack. A 2007 RAND report found that Las Vegas is one of the ten most likely cities to be attacked by terrorists and a nuclear attack could cause $50 billion in lost economic activity. Reid claims that the exercises will hurt commerce.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Cyber Security Jobs on the Forefront

Homeland Security has 1,000 new hires in its future—specifically seeking to hire employees who are well versed in defending the United States from cyber attacks.  As these types of attacks are becoming all too common and deadly, the Obama Administration has stepped up hiring in the next three years to bolster defenses.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano explained these experts will “include cyber analysts, developers and engineers who can detect, investigate and deter cyber attacks.” To read more, click here FOX.

House Approves Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009

The House on Friday passed legislation that would place new security requirements on facilities across the country that use or store dangerous chemicals, expanding the current authority of DHS to require chemical facilities to use safer technologies and processes. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 230-193. It faces an uncertain future in the Senate as no companion legislation has been introduced as of yet. While many environmental groups praised the outcome as finally protecting those living close to chemical facilities, some conservative advocates are concerned the legislation could result in product shortages and lost jobs. Read more here at Global Security Newswire.

Military or Civilian? U.S. to Decide Jurisdiction of Guantanamo Inmates by Nov. 16

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. will decide by November 16 whether to try Guantanamo detainees in military or civilian courts. 215 detainees remain at the Guantanamo Bay facility and the Obama administration has yet to decide who among them will be tried, released, or detained indefinitely.

The administration is trying to stick to a January 22, 2010, deadline it had set at the beginning of its term to close the facility. While the Homeland Security Appropriations bill passed in October contained a provision to allow the government to continue to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to the United States, Attorney General Holder stated that “No determination has been made as to where people will be housed pending trial.” Read more at Bloomberg.