Congress is Rethinking How to Use the Government’s Cyber Talent

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By recruiting specialized teams and rotating assignments, the government could get more out of its cyber workforce, according to lawmakers.

President Trump on Friday signed a spending package to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2019, averting yet another shutdown.

And now that the government’s open for the fiscal year, lawmakers can start to figure out what they want it to do.

Trading Places

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Thune, R-S.D., last week introduced legislation that would create an exchange program between federal agencies and private companies intended to boost the government’s cyber chops. Under the Cyber Security Exchange Act, cyber experts from academia and industry would serve two-year stints in government while federal employees head to the private sector to brush up on the latest cyber practices.

In the Home(land) Stretch

The House Homeland Security Committee gave its stamp of approval to legislation that would require the Homeland Security Department to stand up permanent teams of cyber specialists to help government and industry fend off digital threats. The DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act would charge the units with alerting partners to potential cyber risks, helping them create a cyber defense strategy and restoring services if any attackers get through.

The committee also approved a bill that would force agencies with deep benches of cybersecurity talent to spread the wealth. Under the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act, feds with cyber experience would be able to do stints at agencies with less robust security infrastructures, which would bolster those organizations’ digital defenses.

From China Without Love

Lawmakers on Wednesday also proposed legislation that would strengthen the country’s ability to combat the Chinese government’s worldwide influence operations. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., would require the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of State to publicly report China’s efforts to spread disinformation, manipulate the press and disrupt the economy within the U.S. and allied countries. Under the legislation, the State and Homeland Security departments would also need to create a strategy for combating those operations.

Keep ‘Em Honest

Under a bill introduced Thursday in both the House and Senate, telecom providers would need to be more transparent about what they’re charging consumers. The TRUE Fees Act, sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., would require companies to list all the fees, charges and surcharges included in the prices they advertise for service and give customers the ability to opt out of their contract early if they’ve been wrongfully charged.

Digital Delegation

Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Wednesday proposed a bill that would make it easier for congressional offices to help their constituents get services from federal agencies. The legislation would let people electronically authorize offices to interact with agencies on their behalf—currently offices must receive written consent before doing so. The bill passed the House on Tuesday.

TSA All the Way

Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., on Wednesday proposed a bill that would prevent Congress from taking funds away from the Transportation Security Administration to support unrelated federal projects. Since 2013, lawmakers said, Congress has diverted roughly a third of the agency’s appropriations to other parts of the government.

Shutting Down Shutdowns

A bipartisan sextet of lawmakers led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced a resolution that calls on the Senate to reject the practice of shutting down the government as a negotiating tactic. The measure, which does little more than lip service, comes as the latest proposal to keep the government permanently open.

Coming Up

It’s recess, baby.