Hill Cyberfest Leaves Out Key Cybersecurity Players

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What if there was a cybersecurity party and you weren't invited? You weren't invited even though the party is in your house and you are all about cybersecurity?

That's what the House Homeland Security Committee Republicans, led by Reps. Peter King and Dan Lungren, experienced yesterday when the Committee marked up and passed a revised version of the PRECISE Act of 2011 (HR 3674), the bill introduced by Rep. Lungren, the Chair of the Committee's cybersecurity subcommittee.

The bill differed greatly from the version that passed his Subcommittee in February, with key provisions addressing vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure removed. Both King and Lungren made it clear that the bill before the Committee was not their preferred approach but what was required to gain support for its inclusion in the House Cybersecurity Week next week.

"I would acknowledge this is a slimmed down version of the bill we presented in the subcommittee. I wish it were not so, but the reality of the situation is that it is what is required for us to move forward," Lungren said, repeating the theme various times during the mark-up.

It is a sad day when the committee that should have jurisdiction over cybersecurity and oversee the nation's efforts to protect civilian networks has been pushed aside in the cybersecurity debate. When the leaders of that committee so publicly acknowledge that their hands are tied and that if they want to be part of the party they have to adapt, it raises questions about whether Congress can really effectively address cybersecurity (or any homeland security issue).

That's not to say that the original PRECISE Act was perfect but that policy and even good partisan philosophical divides should override jurisdictional bureaucracy.

It remains unclear whether PRECISE Act LITE, even after the very public concessions Chairmen King and Lungren made, will get an invitation to next week's party. We'll know soon whether committee members will be part of the celebration or remain looking through the window at the cybersecurity party happening on the House floor.