White House expected to lead cybersecurity efforts

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When Melissa Hathaway concludes her 60-day review of federal cybersecurity initiatives, the White House likely will be appointed decision-maker, Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

But while the Obama administration will be coordinating the future agenda, the effort to shore up the nation's infrastructure from cyberattack will be an "inter-agency" effort, said Langevin, co-chairman of the House Cybersecurity Caucus. He said he did not know if a new executive office would be established or whether the White House's National Security Council would be in charge.

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, said all of federal government, drawing on communication with the private sector, will be responsible.

"You're dealing with 42 different departments and agencies," Clarke said on the call. "There's not one king at the end of the day, but [instead] a much more collaborative approach."

The fight over who has control when it comes to federal cybersecurity efforts has been a touchy subject of late. Earlier this month, Rod Beckstrom resigned as head of the Department of Homeland Security's National Cybersecurity Center, citing too much control by the National Security Agency.

The caucus was briefed Thursday on the status of Hathaway's review, results of which are expected to be released next month. The review is in Day 39.

Hathaway, a former Bush aide, presented the caucus with a high-level account of her actions so far. Also mentioned was the need to invest more in developing capable information security professions; the creation of public-private partnerships for incident response; the need to address security while protecting civil liberties; and an increase in the public's "digital literacy" through educational campaigns, Clarke said.

Langevin stressed the need to develop a "comprehensive strategy" – to cost in the billions – to protect the country from already-existing threats, such as the theft of intellectual property by individuals or state-sponsored hackers.

"I believe something like a cyber-9/11 is a real possibility," he said. "It's something that does keep me up at night."

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