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Vote Now: Where Should Roll Call Travel for the Midterm Elections?

Action on Cybersecurity Likely Delayed Until 2014

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Carper, left, and Coburn, center, have been exploring legislation that could include changes to the government’s efforts to secure its own computer networks and codification of the cybersecurity role of the Homeland Security Department.

Most in industry do back passage of legislation that would bolster cybersecurity threat information sharing between businesses and the federal government, but they also concede — as many lawmakers, aides and analysts do — that the Snowden revelations have made Congress leery of taking up the cause of legislation that has been characterized by opponents as something that would put more private U.S. citizen information in the hands of spy agencies.

The Chamber of Commerce will “continue to push for legislation that would direct the government to share timely, reliable, and actionable information on cyber activity with business owners and operators, while ensuring that cybersecurity policies don’t create burdensome regulations or new bureaucracies,” chamber President Thomas J. Donohue wrote in an online commentary this week. “If we work together to tackle this national priority, we can strengthen the security of businesses, communities, our economy, and the country.”

In the meantime, the chamber, too, is closely following the development of the cybersecurity framework by the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, as directed by an executive order President Barack Obama signed at the start of the year.

“NIST has been a constructive partner and is doing a good job developing the cybersecurity framework,” said Ann Beauchesne, the chamber’s vice president of National Security and Emergency Preparedness. “The chamber will continue to push policymakers to implement the framework in a way that is flexible and collaborative in practice.”

The House passed an information sharing bill (HR 624) in the spring, before the Snowden revelations. Since then, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have continued to work on their own information sharing bill but have been focused in recent months on the prospect of a military strike on Syria and on the NSA matters that are the subject of the Snowden leaks, according to a committee aide. The panel also saw a key staffer working on cybersecurity depart for a job in the Obama administration.

Senate Movement

On the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel, Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., and ranking Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have been exploring legislation that could include changes to the government’s efforts to secure its own computer networks and codification of the cybersecurity role of the Homeland Security Department.

But Coburn has been a skeptic of the department’s capabilities and competence, although both sides appear to be making a sincere effort to find common ground.

“Chairman Carper continues to work closely with his colleagues in the Senate and House, especially Dr. Coburn, on bipartisan legislation that will address the very serious cyber threats facing our country,” a committee spokesperson said. “Crafting such a measure is no easy task, but Chairman Carper will continue to work aggressively to find a solution to this ever growing problem as soon as possible.”

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also was bullish on cybersecurity prospects. Last year, a bill he co-sponsored encountered opposition from Republicans and industry groups who contended the voluntary security standards in the bill for critical infrastructure owners were more regulatory than its backers claimed. The legislation never passed the Senate.

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