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  Daily Briefing  
September 4, 2003

Lawmakers grill top cyber official at Homeland Security

By Greta Wodele, National Journal's Technology Daily

House lawmakers on Thursday fired questions at the new chief of infrastructure protection at the Homeland Security Department, asking about the division's fiscal 2004 budget request, upcoming deadlines and the amount of information it shares with Congress.

Kentucky Republican Harold Rogers, chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said during a hearing on the information analysis and infrastructure protection directorate that the unit's budget request did not "provide nearly enough detailed" information and characterized the requests for funding as "simply not adequate." Rogers and subcommittee ranking Democrat Martin Olav Sabo of Minnesota said obtaining the budget information for the agency, and the department overall, was onerous, cumbersome and time-consuming.

"I wonder if we're better off spending the $800 million elsewhere," Sabo said of the $829 million requested by the Bush administration for the directorate, which is in charge of assessing threats to the nation's cyber and physical infrastructures.

Frank Libutti, who became the division's undersecretary two months ago, pledged to provide a more detailed budget in the future. Responding to questions from Sabo about lawmakers not receiving classified or unclassified information from the department, Libutti vowed to address the panel's concerns at "any time."

Rogers also asked Libutti if the division would meet a Dec. 15 deadline established in the spending bill for Homeland Security to define the scope, cost and schedule for programs to assess security threats. Libutti said while his division would meet the deadlines, assessing threats is an "ongoing, day-to-day operation."

Lawmakers did not ask Libutti about a deadline his division missed last month for a report on the current number of intelligence and cyber-security analysts under the directorate. The full Appropriations Committee requested the report by Aug. 30, saying in a report on the measure that the panel "does not believe that [the directorate] is hiring enough intelligence analysts responsible for terrorist assessment, cyber-security threat analysis and biowarfare threat assessment."

A committee aide said the panel is hoping to receive the report before the House and Senate conference committee meets to finalize the Homeland Security appropriations bill, H.R. 2555.

When National Journal's Technology Daily asked about the missed deadline during a break, Libutti said he would take it "under advisement." The secretary reiterated from his testimony that his unit employs about 60 analysts, which includes cyber-security analysts, and that Homeland Security as a whole has more than 850 on board.

New York Democrat Jose Serrano peppered Libutti with questions about the threat of computer viruses on the nation's infrastructure. Libutti responded that the "cybersecurity piece" at the division is "critical and paramount to protecting infrastructure." It requires a "partnership" with state and local governments, as well as the private sector, he said.

The lawmakers ended the hearing by asking Libutti to return to Capitol Hill for a classified briefing on its various programs, including an update on cyber-security initiatives, the national security-alert system, and information sharing with state and local governments.

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