Rep. James R. Langevin (D-R.I.), a member of the House Intelligence
Committee, Feb. 5 sent a letter
to President Obama urging him to use his upcoming State of the Union address to
make a renewed push for legislative action on cybersecurity.
Langevin, a co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, raised
concerns about the rise of cyber-attacks against critical U.S. computer networks
in the government and private sector and the potential for a major national
security disaster, if the trend continues.
In the face of increasing reports of cyber-attacks on U.S. businesses and
government agencies, several committee chairmen in the House and Senate also
recently signaled plans to address cybersecurity within the current
“The cyber attacks against our economic and national security are growing and
affecting all corners of our society, from government to private businesses and
critical infrastructure,” Senate Commerce Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV
(D-W.Va.) said in a statement sent to BNA Feb. 5. “We can't wait any longer to
protect ourselves from these threats and I know my colleagues agree that passing
cybersecurity legislation is a priority.”
Similar statements came from Senate Homeland Security Chairman Thomas R.
Carper (D-Del.), as well as House Homeland Security Chairman Michael T. McCaul
(R-Texas) and House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).
A Carper spokeswoman told BNA Feb. 5 that the senator is planning to hold a
cybersecurity hearing in the near future.
Congressional Research Service--Federal Laws Relating to
Cybersecurity: Overview and Discussion of Proposed Revisions (2/5/13)
McCaul, who, along with Carper, is also a new committee chairman, said in a
Feb. statement that recent cyber-attacks are “further evidence that we must
harden our networks against espionage by enacting comprehensive cybersecurity
legislation to bolster our defenses against enemies who seek to steal our
intelligence, intellectual property and dismantle our critical
A McCaul spokeswoman told BNA Feb. 5 that cybersecurity-related hearings are
expected in the coming months, although the committee has not released a
Rogers said in a Feb. 5 statement that foreign cyber-attackers are targeting
“every aspect of the American economy every day and Congress needs to act with
urgency to protect our national security and our economy.”
Carper said he is committed to working with the administration and
congressional colleagues to reach a solution on a comprehensive cybersecurity
measure “as soon as possible.”
“These latest reports of yet more sophisticated cyber attacks … underscore
the scary reality of how vulnerable we really are to cyber criminals,
terrorists, and nation-states seeking to use technology to steal from us or do
us harm,” Carper said.
The previous Congress failed to enact cybersecurity legislation, although it
was a top priority for House and Senate leaders, as well as the president.
Obama, in his 2012 State of the Union address, highlighted the importance of
strengthening the nation's cybersecurity posture, noting that his administration
had submitted a legislative proposal to Congress (11 PVLR 192, 1/30/12).
A key sticking point in the debate over how to approach cybersecurity was
whether the federal government should have a role in ensuring that critical
parts of the private sector are meeting adequate cybersecurity standards. The
White House and leading congressional Democrats favored such a role for the
government, but many Republicans objected, and no agreement was reached.
In the 112th Congress, Rockefeller was among a group of senators who
introduced and unsuccessfully pushed for passage of a comprehensive bill dubbed
the Cybersecurity Act (S.
3414). The measure called for a government-administered program to encourage
“critical infrastructure” operators to adopt voluntary cybersecurity best
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) twice attempted to pass the
legislation, but Republicans blocked the measure both times (11 PVLR 1711,
The Chamber of Commerce actively lobbied against the bill, arguing that the
proposed standards could lead to government regulations. Recently, however,
Rockefeller released a report that said Fortune
500 companies have mixed views about his cybersecurity legislation (12 PVLR 189,
The 112th House passed a package of business-friendly cybersecurity bills
that included a narrow Rogers measure (H.R.
3523) to strengthen cyberthreat information sharing between the government
and the private sector (11 PVLR 721, 4/30/12). Cybersecurity Act sponsors and
the White House rejected the House package, however, saying that it did not go
Meanwhile, in light of congressional inaction so far, the White House is
expected to issue an executive order on cybersecurity (12 PVLR 136, 1/28/13).
Republicans have balked at the idea, however, and there has been broad
consensus, even among proponents, that an executive order could serve as only a
short-term solution at best.
By Alexei Alexis
Langevin's letter is available at http://langevin.house.gov/press-release/awaiting-executive-order-langevin-urges-president-emphasize-cyber-state-union.
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