• United States



by CSO Staff

Mac Thornberry: It’s in Committee

Aug 01, 20033 mins
Data and Information SecurityMac

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has a new position...and it's not an enviable one. He is the new leader of the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, Research and Development.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) has a new position…and it’s not an enviable one. He is the new leader of the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science, Research and Development. Now take a deep breath, we’re about to explain. Thornberry is responsible for helping the Department of Homeland Security vet new technologies to secure cyberspace. His subcommittee is part of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, which was created in January 2003 to oversee the new Department of Homeland Security. And you thought bureaucracy in Washington was dead!

CSO spoke to Thornberry recently about the challenges facing him in his new role.CSO: How did you get involved with the issue of cybersecurity?Rep. Mac Thornberry: One of the issues I’ve tried to focus on most in Congress is long-term national security. That’s what led me to homeland security. I introduced a bill [HR 1158] in March 2003 to create a separate committee on Homeland Security to oversee the new Department of Homeland Security. It’s easy to see the physical challenges to homeland security, but the cyber aspect is real and important too.What are some of the issues facing the cybersecurity subcommittee this session?There are two main issues. First, there’s the science and technology piece. Our challenge is to help the Homeland Security Department identify new technologies. We also need to set research priorities, get a few technologies field-tested, and identify new detectors and sensors for security. On the cyber side, we need to put more congressional emphasis on covering cybersecurity as a homeland security issue. Cybersecurity issues are harder for people to visualize than physical security problems. Does that make it more challenging to bring attention to cybersecurity issues?Yes. If a bomb goes off, you see the destruction; there are deaths. If a cyberbomb goes off, it’s not as easy to see the effects. I think appreciation for our dependence on systems is growing. Everybody pays for gas at the pump, uses an ATM, does Internet banking. Part of what we want to do as a subcommittee is talk about some of the control systems: power plants, the dependence of telecom, the water treatment plants, and energy and chemical plants. They are all related and dependent on cybertechnologies.I understand that one of your goals is to foster cooperation between the private sector and the government in the area of cybersecurity. How will you approach this task?The first issue is to have everybody understand that we will not be successful without this partnership. With 80 percent of the critical infrastructure in private hands, the government cannot solve the problem alone. I think we can help build trust. The first big fight for the Department of Homeland Security was dealing with the FOIA exception. If companies want to share information, will they face lawsuits? That issue was pretty well decided, but we’ll have to keep an eye on it. We’ll be looking for other confidence-building measures. Government needs to listen as much as it talks. How can CSOs get involved or make their voices heard before your committee?We’re lining up a series of hearings right now, and we want to have a mechanism in place so that people who are not able to come testify can share their ideas. Perhaps something through the website. We’re not there yet, but hopefully it won’t be too long.

Rep. Mac Thornberry takes on cyberspace, and the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.