Congress Considers Cybersecurity Bills

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Earlier last week, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced H.R. 3696, a bill to amend the Homeland Security Act to make certain improvements regarding cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection. The committee circulated the draft earlier this year, and had planned to mark up the bill when the Edward Snowden revelations became public. The bill faces several criticisms, including that the House passed a bipartisan bill earlier in the year that addressed the major issues facing cybersecurity. Also, the main provision of Chairman McCaul’s bill—designating the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate information sharing–was accepted as an amendment to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

Many interested parties and business interests are not very supportive of the bill because they generally don’t think it is needed. Additionally, there is a fear that bringing this legislation to the floor opens up the possibility of introduction of unfavorable amendments surrounding the Snowden matter, including expanded DHS regulatory authority and the retention of metadata. The House has adjourned for the year; any possibility of the committee marking up the bill will take place next year in the second session of the 113th Congress.

In the Senate, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (Chairman Carper, D-DE) will hold a markup on a cybersecurity bill. The bill would give DHS additional flexibility to pay cybersecurity workers more than traditional employees. Attracting highly-skilled cybersecurity experts to DHS has been a challenge, particularly since DOD already has this flexibility to pay cyber experts more. The Committee has stated that having more talented cybersecurity experts should improve the performance of DHS’s cybersecurity programs, which have faced many challenges according to recent DHS OIG reports. The Committee has not introduced the bill, but has noticed a markup for next week. Because the Senate plans to adjourn at the end of next week, this bill would not be given floor time until after the new year.