House sponsors of the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act hopes for quick Senate approval

Published 19 February 2010

The The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act by an overwhelming majority; Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) says: “When you’re talking about science and technology and national security….those are elements we should all be able to work together (on); Democrat, Republican, and that’s what we saw on the House floor”

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act by an overwhelming majority. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Federal News Radio that “most federal networks at all agencies, including the Pentagon, have been hacked into and enormous amounts of data have been stolen in phishing expeditions and espionage.”

NPR’s Suzanne Kubota reports that he wanted to develop a bill that would better protect the federal networks from espionage and the nation’s critical infrastructure from interruption. McCaul commented to NPR on the key recommendations in the Act:

Improves coordination in government: Gives National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) the authority to set security standards for federal computer systems and develop checklists for agencies to follow. “They have a handbook,” said McCaul. “It’s hardly implemented. This would ensure that these standards are implemented across the boards, across all federal agencies to better protect our federal networks. It’s a serious issue. When you talk to some of our top military experts, they’ll tell you one of the greatest threats we have right now is cybersecurity.” During hearings exploring the issue of cybersecurity, McCaul noted witnesses told him when it comes to defending federal networks, “DHS is supposed to be in charge, but really no one knew who was in charge.”

Improves coordination outside of government: Creates a federal-university-private-sector task force to coordinate research and development. (See next.)

Improves R&D: Establishes cybersecurity research and development grant programs and funding, said McCaul, “through a public-private consortium, if you will, with the federal government, universities, and the private sector to better protect these networks.”

Improves quality of cyber professionals: Creates scholarship programs (undergraduate and graduate) at NSF that can be repaid with federal service. Requires the President to conduct an assessment of cybersecurity workforce needs across the Federal government.

McCaul explained that last point further: “…it provides for a scholarship program for technology workers to develop a cyberworkforce in the federal government. After they get their training and education, they pay for that by federal service within the federal government.”

McCaul says he is optimistic about the bill’s chances in the Senate: “When you’re talking about science and technology and national security,” said McCaul, “those are elements we should all be able to work together (on); Democrat, Republican, and that’s what we saw on the House floor.”

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