Congress votes to form cybersecurity unit with differing biometrics operation plans

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The Homeland Security Committee approved a new bill Wednesday by a voice vote to form a new agency within DHS that addresses cybersecurity protection responsibilities, according to a report by Nextgov.

The bill calls to transform an existing DHS bureaucracy, the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), into an “operational” agency called the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency.

The new agency is expected to take effect under the next White House administration in 2017.

A 2015 bill appointed the DHS with new private sector cyber duties, “and we want to ensure that we elevate the cybersecurity mission so it can effectively carry out those authorities,” a House committee aide told Nextgov.

The new measure “realigns and streamlines the department’s cybersecurity and infrastructure protection missions to more effectively protect the American public against cyberattacks that could cripple the nation,” committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said.

The House has different plans for biometric identification operation than that of the White House’s agenda.

Currently, an autonomous division within NPPD, named the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), operates a database with the fingerprints, faces and even irises of foreign nationals.

The current administration wants the division to fall under Customs and Border Protection because of its use of biometrics in screening visitors at the border.

The new legislation has different plans for OBIM as it seeks to position the office inside the DHS Management Directorate, a component that serves all agencies–not just CBP.

“Our view is that CBP is not the only user,” the House committee staffer said. “We want to make sure all components have access to the OBIM capabilities.”

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