The new position will be responsible for identifying and assessing the vulnerability of the critical telecommunications infrastructure, providing timely threat data, and leading national response to cyber and telecommunications attacks.
Several lawmakers and industry groups had called for elevating the role of cybersecurity in the agency, arguing that it was too buried in the bureacracy to be very effective. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) was among those applauding Chertoff's announcement.
"ITAA has called for the creation of a cybersecurity czar for more than five years," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement. "We think the challenges of cybersecurity are special and different, and we are gratified that DHS Secrectary Michael Chertoff shares that view."
Tiffany Jones, government relations manager at Symantec, said the new position "will be a tremendous asset for developing a coordinated, national approach to address the myriad of information security challenges that individuals and enterprises face today."
The elevated cybersecurity post is part of an agency-wide restructuring plan that aims to ensure DHS' policies, operations and structures are best aligned to address potential national threats.
"DHS must base its work on priorities driven by risk," Chertoff said. "Our goal is to maximize our security, but not security at any price. Our security regime must promote Americans' freedom, prosperity, mobility, and individual privacy."
Other proposed changes include a new directorate of policy to centralize and improve policy development and coordination, and a new office of intellience and analysis to improve information sharing.