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5/7/2010
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Cybersecurity Bill Would Give Coordinator Budget Authority

Cybersecurity coordinator would become director of National Cyberspace Office, handle budgets, policy, and standards.

One of the common criticisms of the creation of a national cybersecurity coordinator position within the White House has been that the position lacks real teeth.

Two Congressmen Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives that would give the position budget authority and more.

The Executive Cyberspace Authorities Act of 2010, introduced by Reps. Jim Langevin, (D-R.I.) and Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), and co-sponsored by five others, would make the cybersecurity coordinator a permanent, Presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed position under the title of the director of the National Cyberspace Office.

The National Cyberspace Office, in turn, would be a new entity tasked with "coordinating issues relating to achieving an assured, reliable, and survivable" IT infrastructure in government and beyond.

“This legislation will help fill a critical void in our cybersecurity infrastructure,” Langevin, who is also co-chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus, said in a statement. “While the President’s establishment of a Cybersecurity Coordinator was an encouraging step, the position was not given the proper authorities to adequately secure our networks and coordinate IT policy across government.”

Currently, White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt does not have budget authority. His position is also one that has no Congressional requirement, meaning that future presidents could simply choose to do away with the job.

In addition to making the role permanent, Cybersecurity budget approval is among the most significant roles that would be bestowed on the national cyberspace director in the bill. Agencies would have to send their cybersecurity budgets to the director for approval before they go on to the Office of Management and Budget for inclusion in the President's larger budget proposal.

Included with those budget requests would be threat analyses, cybersecurity plans, details of agency compliance with federal cybersecurity requirements, and reports on identity management and authentication progress, which the director would use in scrutinizing the requests.

Beyond budget authority, the bill would give the National Cyberspace Office another stick to ensure agencies' cybersecurity efforts are up to par: the ability to recommend to the President the withholding of awards and bonuses for agencies that fail to "make adequate efforts" to secure their IT infrastructures.

The legislation would also give the director authority to coordinate standards-setting with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, develop and oversee cybersecurity policies and guidelines, encourage public-private partnerships on cybersecurity, and coordinate IT security training in government.

The bill was referred to three House committees for consideration: the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. There's no companion bill in the Senate, but the bill is just one of many cybersecurity bills floating around on Capitol Hill.

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