The head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity wing is pushing back on a media report that the agency has scaled back personnel and resources from its combatting foreign election interference. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs hosted a conference call with reporters less than 24 hours after The Daily Beast published a story that quoted multiple anonymous DHS officials who said two CISA task forces focused on coordinating the department’s response to foreign influence in U.S. elections were significantly downsized shortly after the mid-terms. Krebs didn’t deny that personnel levels for the task forces were reduced. He characterized the task forces as temporary vehicles to address an emerging threat while CISA worked to hire staff and build more permanent institutional capacity to tackle the issue.
“Task forces are stood up to address emerging issues that you’re not resourced for at that time,” he said. “We’re pulling people in from across the agency, across the department. In some cases, we had detailees that were on detail for 18 months. That is an exceptionally long time.”
Krebs said reductions to the task force did not represent a drawdown of efforts on election security or countering foreign influence. At the same time, CISA appears to be focused more on technical aspects of securing infrastructure than on combatting foreign influence.
“There’s a problem in if you look at election security as a bucket, like ‘well the machine is secured or the website for unofficial tallies are secured the best they can be’ and then you ignore the broader influence operations or the [political] parties,” a staffer for a Democratic member of Congress with cybersecurity oversight responsibilities told FCW.