Napolitano: Cyber exec order under review

Kristoffer Tripplaar

DHS chief declines to provide timetable for when it might be issued.

An interagency review of an executive order implementing new cybersecurity policies affecting both federal agencies and critical infrastructure in the private sector is under way, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday. But she said she could not provide a timetable as to when the order would be issued.

Napolitano spoke at a cybersecurity summit hosted by Government Executive and National Journal.

"I don't want to go into too much detail, but I would say it is in the form of a new executive order," as opposed to simply an extension of existing authorities, Napolitano said.

Since Congress failed to reach agreement on broad cybersecurity legislation before going on recess, observers have been expecting President Obama to issue an order unilaterally implementing certain new cyber provisions.

Napolitano said such an order would be inherently limited. Only legislation can provide liability protection for companies who share sensitive information, she said, and give the Homeland Security Department relief from standard civil service requirements as it seeks to build its cybersecurity workforce.

 "Congress has had a full opportunity to act," Napolitano said. "That was and still is the preference." But in the meantime, she added, "the president has a responsibility to act."

Napolitano said it was unfortunate that the debate over cyber legislation had "devolved into is this regulation or is this not regulation" of private companies.

"I don't view this as the government coming in and telling you what to do," she said. "Far from it."

Federal agencies, Napolitano said, need to work more effectively with the private sector in two key areas: real time information sharing and wider adoption of cyber best practices.