Senate panel approves IT, cyber legislation

FITARA, FISMA updates and a cybersecurity consolidation bill now move to the full Senate, as does the nomination of Shaun Donovan to head OMB.

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee met on June 25 to pass a trio of bills that aim to augment cybersecurity and bolster IT management.

The panel also approved, by a 9-1 vote, the nomination of HUD Secretary Shaun L. Donovan to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. The lone dissenter was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who questioned Donovan's trustworthiness.

"We need honesty," Johnson said. "We have far too many reality deniers. We have put Donovan on notice, and … he refused to be honest in Congress. I don't believe he is qualified to be OMB director."

The bills, which were each approved by voice vote, are:

  • The Federal Information Security Modernization Act, which updates the FISMA standards legislated in 2002 to move toward automated and continuous monitoring. The bill also aims to further define the responsibilities of both OMB and DHS in assessing the federal government's cybersecurity risks. Carper said OMB will continue to "steer" by managing policy and oversight, while DHS continues to "row the boat" by advancing the necessary systems that assess and respond to cybersecurity breaches.
  • The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center Act, which focuses on the need for agencies to share cybersecurity resources and consolidate federally managed cybersecurity systems. Sen. Johnson expressed concern that DHS might be acquiring too much regulatory authority, but fellow Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the panel's ranking member, said "DHS is not asking for any additional power beyond what is already present."
  • The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which aims to increase the power of agency and component CIOs, including the authority to approve IT budget requests and contracts and enhanced hiring authority. "We spent $84 billion on IT last year and $40 billion of that went to waste," Coburn said. "We need to stop the bleeding and fix the problem." The House passed its version of FITARA as a stand-alone bill in February and in May as part of the defense authorization bill; the senators took up the House legislation, but substituted language drafted by Carper and Coburn before passing the bill.
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