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Department of Homeland Security to hire 1,000 cybersecurity experts

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October 2, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed it will hire up to 1,000 cybersecurity experts over the next 36 months to help better protect U.S. computer networks, an Obama administration official said late yesterday. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano seeks to hire such cybersecurity experts from various fields involved with Internet security.

Napolitano said "Cybersecurity is one of our most urgent priorities." She unveiled the plans at an event marking the beginning of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

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"This new hiring program will enable DHS to recruit the best cyberanalysts, security application developers and Internet infrastructure engineers from all over the world to serve their country by leading the nation's defenses against cyberthreats," according to Napolitano.

She added "we also rely on critical cybernetworks to control and manage transportation, the power grid, banking services, insurance, Wall Street, etc."

Overall, U.S. officials are very mindful that both government and private sector computer sites have been targeted, and various consequences can be very dire. The Internet, Napolitano said, is "a critical part of our everyday lives and how our society and our economy operate."

The Obama Administration has identified cybersecurity as a top priority but has yet to hire a "cyber-czar" to head up its efforts.

Chris Painter, the White House National Security Staff's acting senior director for cybersecurity, said that president Barack Obama remains fully committed to finding someone for the top job.

DHS officials could not yet say precisely how many cyberexperts now work at DHS and its various component agencies such as the Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. However, various estimates already range from about 2,800 to 3,200 full-time employees.

Napolitano added that she doubts it will be necessary to fill all 1,000 of the authorized positions, but she is still mainly focused on making the Department of Homeland Security a "world-class cyberorganization with the best people and with state-of-the-art security equipment and tools."

Today, DHS personnel carry out U.S. counterterrorism missions in a broad range. Every law enforcement component within DHS has statutory responsibilities that are critical to combating the range of various terrorist threats.

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DHS personnel within Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and its Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) perform critical counterterrorism law enforcement work whenever they are on the job.

They count among their daily responsibilities tasks such as securing the aviation and marine sectors, securing our borders, and combating the smuggling of dangerous contraband such as illegal weapons and drugs, all of which are critical to countering domestic terror threats.

All these people are the forward-facing part of DHS’ expansive counterterrorism effort. These DHS personnel play an indispensible role in the overall mission of keeping the Nation safe, according to the DHS website.

DHS also plays a critical role in ensuring a more unified federal effort against terrorism—one of the key reasons the Department was founded. DHS works together with many other U.S. federal departments and agencies to secure the country from attacks inspired by international terrorist organizations through information sharing, investigation, engagement and enforcement.

DHS works very closely at the interagency level—with the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Department of State, the Department of Defense and the ODNI, among others—to combat violent extremism on many fronts.

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Source: The Department of Homeland Security.

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