recommended reading

Cybersecurity bill’s outlook still bleak

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

When sweeping cybersecurity legislation failed to advance in the Senate in August, it went down with a barrage of finger-pointing and posturing. And aides from both parties say that nothing really has changed since it was filibustered.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is looking to revive the Cybersecurity Act as soon as this week, which seems optimistic given that he had also promised to take up the bill at the beginning of 2012; it didn’t hit the floor until July.

Over the summer, neither side could agree to a set list of amendments. Republicans wanted to tack on provisions dealing with the health care law and abortion. A group of Democrats tried attaching a gun-control amendment.

Last month, Reid accused Republicans of engaging in “tea party-motivated obstruction” over the summer and said that the GOP would have “one more chance to back their words with action” on the issue after the November elections.

Substantive disagreements about the legislation are also unresolved.

Democrats, backed by the White House, are pushing for minimum security standards for certain critical infrastructure companies, such as those that run electric grids or nuclear-power plants. Democrats say they have already compromised by making those standards voluntary instead of enforceable.

Republicans, supported by many businesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say even voluntary standards could become de facto government regulation, which would only burden companies and do nothing to secure U.S. computer networks from cyberattacks.

Unlike in August, the lame-duck debate will take place in the shadow of an impending executive order by the Obama administration that would establish a system of voluntary standards.

The White House says that Congress will still need to act to fully address some issues, including information-sharing among businesses and government, as well as federal information-security policies. But White House officials say they’re not holding their breath.

“Unfortunately, the current prospects for a comprehensive bill are limited and the risk is too great for the administration not to act,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told National Journal Daily. Even if the bill fails to clear the Senate again, it could provide the White House with more political cover for moving forward with an executive order.

All of this sets the stage for additional political posturing, said James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“By accident, they could pass a symbolic bill, but I think the main goal is to score points off the other sides,” he said. “Why, at this point, they want to do that, I don’t know.”

Threatwatch Alert

Accidentally leaked credentials

U.K. Cellphone Company Leaks Customer Data to Other Customers

See threatwatch report


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.