Cybersecurity legislationLawmakers to combine cybersecurity bills

Published 24 June 2010

Reforming the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and defining the role of the White House and other agencies are common themes in the many cybersecurity bills now circulating on the Hill

The Senate will work to combine a number of cybersecurity bills with an eye toward meeting the goal of majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) of passing comprehensive cybersecurity legislation sometime this year, Senate staffers said Tuesday at a conference in Washington, D.C.

There is broad agreement between key Senate committees in terms of key elements that need to be included in any comprehensive legislation, Eric Hopkins, professional staff member for the federal financial management subcommittee of the Senate committee on homeland security and government affairs, said at the Symantec Government Symposium 2010, but many details need to be worked out.

InformationWeek’s J. Nicholas Hoover quotes Jacob Olcott, counsel with the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, to say that there are a number of themes common in both the Senate homeland security committee bill sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), and the Senate commerce committee bill sponsored by Senators John Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the two most prominent and comprehensive bills currently circulating.

Hoover writes that included in that list are reforms of the Federal Information Security Management Act, clarification of the role of the federal government in preventing cyber-attacks against privately-owned critical infrastructure, delineation of the proper roles of the White House and other agencies in managing cybersecurity within government, and measures to grown and improve the cybersecurity workforce.

The legislative strategy for crafting a combined comprehensive cybersecurity bill isn’t yet clear, the staffers said. There are, however, dozens of cybersecurity bills bouncing around Capitol Hill, and, according to Olcott, Reid is looking to “bring in a lot of Senators with skin in the game,” meaning that whatever form the final legislation takes, it will be include the involvement of not just Sens. Rockefeller, Snowe, Lieberman and Collins but others as well.

Despite the urgency with which Congress has been dealing with cybersecurity as of late, when pressed, neither Hopkins nor Olcott would actually commit to getting a bill passed sometime this year. “The intent is there to get something done, but obviously, Congress has a lot on its plate right now,” Hopkins said, raising the specter of the BP oil spill, the economy, and upcoming mid-term elections. “What I do know is that, by working together, we can put something together that will be solid and hopefully won’t require too much debate on the floor. It’s not a partisan issue.”