By AP Technology Writer
updated 10/12/2004 7:25:16 PM ET 2004-10-12T23:25:16

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told industry executives Tuesday he supports appointment of a senior cybersecurity chief higher in his department with broader authority and more control over spending. The department later pulled back from the idea.

Ridge told a meeting of private experts from the banking, transportation, energy and manufacturing industries that he intends to elevate the cybersecurity job to assistant secretary, which would place the job just two steps below him in the chain of command.

Homeland Security officials previously opposed that idea.

Several hours after Ridge's speech, the department said Ridge misspoke at the meeting, and the new computer security chief would be elevated somewhat but not given the broad authority of an assistant secretary.

Some lawmakers and industry experts have pressed the Bush administration in recent months to give the nation's cybersecurity chief more authority and money for protection programs. The intelligence overhaul bill that passed in the House last week would create such a role for a new assistant secretary in Homeland Security.

The previous cybersecurity chief, Amit Yoran, resigned abruptly this month, giving a single day's notice of his intention to leave. He had been in the job one year. Yoran's position as director of the department's National Cyber Security Division was at least three bureaucratic steps below Ridge.

The department has opposed strongly appointment of an assistant secretary for cybersecurity, instead consolidating responsibility for protecting both physical structures and computer networks under Assistant Secretary Robert Liscouski.

Liscouski told an industry conference Tuesday in Florida that he did not believe creating another assistant secretary's job was appropriate or imminent. He defended the department's current approach as the most rational.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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