Cybersecurity

Industry, administration meet on cyber order

Janet Napolitano

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says an executive order on cybersecurity is coming soon.

A White House official met Oct. 17 with representatives from the Information Technology Industry Council to discuss the forthcoming cybersecurity executive order, an ITI spokesperson confirmed.

While the spokesperson declined to provide details, the meeting with some of industry’s most prominent IT companies comes within weeks of the administration’s meetings with congressional aides to discuss the executive order, The Hill reported. It is expected that White House representatives will meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in coming weeks as well.

Draft versions of the executive order have called for a voluntary program, under which private companies operating critical infrastructure could implement government-instituted standards and best practices.

Rumors about a cyber executive order have been swirling for more than a month, and top government officials have confirmed the measure is being drafted and reviewed.  Members of Congress, who failed to pass bipartisan cybersecurity legislation this session, have been vocal in expressing their views of the executive-order approach. Some legislators have said a cyber bill could be taken up again when Congress returns for the lame duck session after the elections.  And there is broad consensus that legislative action is still needed, even if President Obama issues and executive order.

“The executive order is being drafted and in the interagency process. I can’t give you a firm timeline. It can’t do a few things only legislation can do, such as liability protection for companies when they are sharing information,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at a Washington event on Sept. 28. “An executive order will help but, we still need comprehensive cyber legislation. It’s something that Congress is going to have to come back and address.”

In an Oct. 11 appearance in New York, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta underscored the importance of cybersecurity action, including the implementation of legislation, calling on lawmakers to set aside the partisan squabbling that has served as a roadblock so far.

“This legislation has bipartisan support, but is victim to legislative and political gridlock like so much else in Washington. While we wait for Congress to act, the administration is looking to enhance cybersecurity measures under existing authorities, by working with the private sector to promote best practices, increase information sharing,” Panetta said. “They are considering issuing an executive order as one option to try to deal with the situation, but very frankly there is no substitute for comprehensive legislation…Congress has a responsibility to act and the President of the United States has constitutional responsibility to defend our country.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.