U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul called for greater cyber capabilities for the DHS.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul called for greater cyber capabilities for the DHS.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, is urging the formation of a cybersecurity agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

Speaking at the National Press Club, the U.S. Representative for Texas's 10th congressional district, McCaul told reporters that the DHS is in need of focus and resources. They're doing a decent job, "but could be doing a lot better with the help of Congress,” Computerworld reported him as saying.

One area the DHS could help is with monitoring cyber activity for states during national elections, he said. Even before the recent presidential campaign, many state election officials called for cybersecurity help from federal authorities.

Citing the charges of Russian interference in the presidential election, as well as China's incursion into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, McCaul said, “there's no greater attack than that to our democracy.”

McCaul told the gathering that he told President-elect Donald Trump to “call out Russia for bad behavior.” He pressed for an appropriate retaliation.

In calling for more resources for the DHS, McCaul said the civilian agency should collaborate more forcefully with the private sector in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure.

“Eighty percent of the malicious codes are in the private sector,” McCaul said. “We need the civilian agency to work with the private sector, but it also needs to defend itself. The private sector has responsibility.”

Having a civilian agency doing the job was, he said, preferential to employing the military to handle the responsibilities.

“Oversight of DHS will be more important," McCaul said, adding that he wanted to reauthorize DHS and include a lead cybersecurity agency in the department. "Right now we don't have the priority and focus to defend the nation. By creating this primary agency, DHS will have greater capability.”