Cybersecurity

Senate signals piecemeal approach on cybersecurity

US Capitol

A draft cybersecurity bill from the Senate Commerce Committee puts the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in charge of developing guidelines for public-private collaboration on threats to critical infrastructure.

The July 10 draft, which has support from committee Chairman John Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), and Ranking Member John Thune, (R-S.D.), differs from earlier Senate efforts at cybersecurity legislation on two key fronts.

First, it is rather modest in scope, covering critical infrastructure risks, cybersecurity research, and workforce development, and has some common elements with bills that have already passed in the House. Second, it proposes a voluntary rather than mandatory regime of information sharing between government and commercial infrastructure operators -- a position key senators adopted in 2012 only after trying unsuccessfully to require such sharing.

The new language updates NIST's charter to include the development of "a voluntary, industry-led set of standards, guidelines, and best practices, methodologies, procedures, and processes to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure." Under the draft, NIST would not be able to require industry to adopt specific solutions or IT products, or mandate specific guidelines for the design and development of products or services. This is largely consistent with President Obama's February executive order, which created a framework for the protection of critical infrastructure.

The bill also looks to train qualified personnel to work in government cybersecurity through a "scholarship-for-service" program that offers tuition for promising students with an aptitude in computer science and related fields, with the expectation that they will ply their skills on behalf of the government. The bill orders a study of existing cyber security education programs to find out whether their curricula match up with the demands of the field, as well as an analysis of impediments facing the federal government in attracting qualified cybersecurity personnel. Further, the bill directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to expand its work in designing reliable networks, testing third-party software, protecting privacy, and securing the cloud.

The workforce and education components of the draft track fairly closely with measures passed by the House of Representatives in the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2013 and the Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act. Both those bills have been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


Featured

  • Telecommunications
    Stock photo ID: 658810513 By asharkyu

    GSA extends EIS deadline to 2023

    Agencies are getting up to three more years on existing telecom contracts before having to shift to the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle.

  • Workforce
    Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen

    OMB looks to retrain feds to fill cyber needs

    The federal government is taking steps to fill high-demand, skills-gap positions in tech by retraining employees already working within agencies without a cyber or IT background.

  • Acquisition
    GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

    GSA to consolidate multiple award schedules

    The General Services Administration plans to consolidate dozens of its buying schedules across product areas including IT and services to reduce duplication.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.