It's Time to Stop Talking and Pass a Cyber Bill

Mikulski: Cyber terrorists are thinking every day about attacking our critical infrastructure.

I come to the floor not as a Democrat, I come to the floor as a patriot. I say to my colleagues and the United States Senate, this week on this floor, the United States Senate has a rendezvous with destiny.   We have pending before us cybersecurity legislation, a framework to protect critical infrastructure, the dot-com world against cyber-attacks from those who have predatory, hostile intent to the United States of America. Now, we are bogged down. We are not moving. We're once again following what has become a usual pattern in the Senate that when all is said and done, more is going to get said than gets done. But I say to anyone listening and anyone watching, we cannot let that happen.   The United States of America is in danger. And this danger is not something in the future. It is not something written in science fiction books. This is not the wave that's going to come. It's happening right now in cyber-attacks on our banking services, our personal identity, our trade secrets.   Now, the naysayers here say we can't pass this bill because it will be overregulation and it will lead to strangulation and we can't ask the private sector to spend one dime on protecting itself. Well, let me say that if anything happens to the United States of America, if the grid goes down, if NASDAQ goes down, if our banking system goes down and we lose electricity and street lights, I will tell you what will happen.   Once again politicians will overreact, we will overregulate and we will overspend. Now, in a very judicious, well thought out, well-discussed process we could come up with a legislative framework that would defend the United States of America and at the same time find balance in that sensible center that another great patriot, Colin Powell, calls us to.   Now, there is this cyber war and I want everybody to know about it. The cyber-attacks are happening right now. Cyber terrorists are thinking every single day about attacking our critical infrastructure. There are nation states that want to humiliate and intimidate the United States of America, to cause catastrophic economic disruption. How do they want to do it? They want to take over our power grids. They want to disrupt our air traffic control. They want to disrupt the financial functioning of the United States of America. Cyber spies are working at breakneck speed to steal many of our state secrets. Cyber criminals are hacking our networks.   What are we talking about on this bill? We are talking about critical infrastructure. Remember that freaky storm a couple of weeks ago? Remember Pepco? Oh boy, I’ve still got my ears ringing from my constituents calling about Pepco. I can tell you what it was like in Baltimore when that freaky storm hit. You couldn't get around. The stop lights were down. It was like the Wild West getting around. You could go into stores, if they were open, and nothing functioned. The lights weren't on, the refrigeration was off, business was losing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. Families with no electricity for five days were going to hotels. Now, some want to say this bill costs too much money? Just look at what it cost the National Capital Region of the United States of America because of a freaky storm.   It took us five days to get the utilities back on. But what happens if our destiny is outside of our control and that cyber terrorists have turned off the lights in America and we can't turn them back on? It’s going to cost too much? Hey, wait till this kind of thing happens. I don't want it to happen.   And we can prevent it from happening and do it in a way that takes into account the needs of business. I want to understand the needs of business, but I sure understand the needs of families. I need to understand the effects of small business. My father owned a little neighborhood grocery store. I know what it's like when electricity went down. My father lost thousands of dollars because the frozen food melted. My father lost thousands of dollars years ago in a freaky, freaky storm.   This bill means we can deal with it. Just remember what drilling information means. It means financial services, it means the grid. So when there is no power, schools are shut down, businesses shut down, public transit is crippled, no traffic lights are working. And over there in Virginia, didn't 911 stop working, and they're still investigating? Well, right now I don't want to investigate and I don't want to castigate but I sure want the Senate to be able to get going.   Then there is the issue of financial services. The FBI is currently investigating 400 reported cases of corporate account attacks where cyber criminals have made unauthorized transfers from the bank accounts of United States businesses. The FBI tells me they're looking at the attempt to steal $255 million, an actual loss of $85 million. Hackers have already gone into the New York Stock Exchange, they're already going into NASDAQ and are attempting to shut down or steal information. If we allow this to continue, it could cost us billions and billions of dollars.   Do you remember in 2010 we had a flash crash? The Dow plunged because automatic computer traders shut down. This was the result of turbulent trading, but just imagine if terrorists or nation states that really don't like us strike. I’m really not going to name them, but we really know who they are.   I know there are patriots in this Senate who have really been the defenders of the nation in other wars. They have said themselves that they worry about the Asian Pacific. They worry about China. You know, I worry about China, too. So while we're looking at the Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bill and people want more aircraft carriers to defend us in the blue water against China, what happens if there's a cyber-attack? Now, we do know how to protect dot-mil, do we want to protect also dot-com in the same way? I think so.   I want to salute Senators Lieberman and Collins. They’ve come forth with the bill that does two things from a national security perspective. First of all, it tells business you voluntarily can come in. There is no mandate to participate. But if you do come in, you will get liability protection. Wow. In other words, we're actually going to offer incentives. We're actually going to offer good-guy bonuses. We're not going to do it through tax breaks or more things to add to the deficit or debt. We're going to say come on in, participate in setting the standards, we want you at the table and then living by the standards. And for that, you will get liability protection.   There are also those who say we just don't like the Department of Homeland Security being in charge. We worry about a cyber-Katrina. You know what? I worry about that too. But I must say in all of our meetings we can see that the Department of Homeland Security has made tremendous advances. I've been one of their sharpest critics in this area and I’ve been skeptical from the beginning. But now as we've moved along and listened to Secretary Napolitano and General Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, on how they can work together honoring the Constitution and civil liberties, I think we have a good bill.   Why do we need this bill? General Alexander, who heads up the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command, says that we are facing attacks and potential of attacks that are mind-boggling. He talks about the stealing of trade secrets that amounts to the greatest transfer of wealth the country has ever seen. He worries about the security of the grid. He worries about financial services while he also worries very much about the dot-com. But you know, we live in the United States of America. We have constitutional government. Our military, no matter how powerful and how strong, has a responsibility to certain areas, but we need a civilian agency in charge of how to protect dot-com, a civilian agency benefiting from the incredible turbo intellectual power of the National Security Agency. So we've got a bill that offers the framework.   I would also say let's have a bill, let’s vote for cloture, let's have a regular order with germane amendments. We have patriots here, but we need to act like who are we for. Are we for protecting America? Or are we for coming up with the same old platitudes that resist any activity of government at all to protect the American people?   Mr. President, I’m no Janie-Come-Lately to this bill. I represent one of the greatest states in America. My state is home to the National Security Agency. I have the high honor of being on the Intelligence Committee. I’ve been working on this topic for almost up to a decade. And I’ve watched the threat grow as I watched the technology against us grow in power, and watching the number of people that could attack us in this area.   I sit on the Appropriations Committee, where as a member of the DOD appropriations I’ve been proud to work with both the authorizers and Senator Inouye to stand up the U.S. Cyber Command, the Tenth Fleet, which is the cyber fleet, and others related to it. But I’ve also been proud of is to be able to take a look at what we do need to do here in terms of everything from workforce to protecting others. I fund the FBI. Working with Director Mueller, I’ve been able to see up close and personal the growing threats right here in the United States of America.   The attacks are now. The question is: are we going to build cyber bomb shelters? Now, this isn't like the old bunkers of old. This is where we work with the private sector. Remember our grid and our telecommunications is owned and operated by the private sector. We cannot do this without the private sector. We, your government, come together with a legislative framework that's constitutionally sound and legally reliable. Where we will make the best and highest use of our military under that framework. But at the end of the day, we will be able to have a voluntary framework bringing the private sector together with incentives, particularly around liability, that invite them to participate in the formulation of the regulation, the implementation of the regulation, and living by it. This is not regulation that leads to strangulation. This is regulation that helps them protect the United States of America.   So let me conclude by saying this. Everybody says, ‘gee, what could I do? Could I have protected against an attack on the United States of America? What’s that good ol' group we didn't know how to spell 10 years ago? Wasn’t it something like al Qaeda?’ Would we have done anything in the world to protect the 9/11 attack? I certainly would. I certainly would. But I say here today, if you want to protect the next big attacks on the United States of America, vote for cloture. Let's have an informed debate. Let’s find the sensible center that will give us the constitutionally but effective way of defending the United States of America.”  
Sen. Barbara Mikulski made the following remarks in a floor speech Tuesday:  

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee panel on commerce, justice and science.