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McCaul: Expect a Major IT Modernization Push after Cyber Executive Order

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas // Evan Vucci/AP

A long-delayed cybersecurity executive order due out from the Trump administration could be a launching pad for a major push to replace outdated government technology, the House Homeland Security Chairman said Thursday.

That modernization drive will likely be led by a modernizing government technology bill, sponsored by committee member Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, which passed the House last Congress but stalled in the Senate, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said at a cybersecurity event hosted by the wireless industry group CTIA.

Hurd is expected to reintroduce that bill soon.

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“I don’t want to get ahead of the White House, but my sense is you’re going to see a modernization act,” McCaul said.

“Within the federal network system, we have these legacy systems that are very antiquated,” he said, “which makes us more vulnerable to an attack like the [Office of Personnel Management] breach.”

That 2015 breach, linked to the Chinese government, compromised sensitive security clearance information about more than 20 million current and former federal employees and their families.

McCaul expects the cyber executive order to be released “in the near future,” he said.

The chairman also plans to introduce legislation soon to create an independent cybersecurity agency within the Department of Homeland Security that has a more direct line to top department officials, he said.

The White House reviewed that proposal and recently supplied some technical tweaks, which McCaul was waiting on before introducing the bill, he said. The tweaks suggest the White House supports the bill, he said.

McCaul plans to introduce that legislation as a standalone bill, he said, separate from a larger initiative to reauthorize all of DHS’s operations.

The chairman plans to introduce legislation today that would expand the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, which provides scholarships for information security professionals who agree to work for the government. The new bill would expand that program to include scholarships for graduates who plan to teach cybersecurity at the university level, he said.

McCaul also plans to reintroduce legislation soon to form a high-level commission to investigate the benefits of encryption and the danger it poses when terrorists and criminals communicate using spy-proof systems. McCaul and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., first floated that plan in February 2016 as the FBI was trying to compel Apple to help it crack into an encrypted iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. 

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