Senate Bill Proposes Office Of Cyberspace Policy

The cybersecurity bill being considered by the Senate reintroduces a presidential power to shut down access to critical networks in case of a major cyber attack.
The Senate is considering yet another cybersecurity bill, one that would create a new Office of Cyberspace Policy to advise the president about how to protect critical infrastructure and prevent cyber attacks.

Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 -- co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Tom Carper (D-De.) -- also would give the president power to shut down access to critical networks in case of a major cyber attack.

Previously, this power was taken out of another cybersecurity bill the Senate is considering, Cybersecurity Act of 2010, S. 773, sponsored by Sens. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

According to the newly proposed bill, the president again can "authorize emergency measures to protect the nation's most critical infrastructure if a cyber vulnerability is being exploited or is about to be exploited," according to a press statement on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee website.

However, the president must notify Congress in advance before exercising these powers, and emergency measures taken must be the "least disruptive necessary" to respond to the threat, according to the statement.

Lieberman, who also is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in published reports he is hoping to fast track the new bill to passage, even as the Rockefeller-Snowe bill and a host of others are still being considered.

Other cybersecurity bills before Congress include the International Cyberspace and Cybersecurity Coordination Act of 2010 from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2010 from Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.).

Cybersecurity is a priority for the Obama administration, but so far Congress has been unable to pass definitive cybersecurity legislation.

If the new bill is passed, the Senate would confirm a director of a new Office of Cyberspace Policy to lead cybersecurity efforts and develop a national strategy for cyberspace policy that incorporates the collective interests of military, law enforcement, intelligence and diplomacy.

The bill also would create a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to boost the DHS' cybersecurity capabilities and authorities. The DHS has been at the forefront of the federal government's cybersecurity efforts, in particular to work with private-sector companies that own many of the networks at risk.

Other elements of the bill are an update to the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) to modernize how federal agencies protect their internal networks and systems, and a requirement that the newly established NCCC work with the private sector to strengthen the security of critical infrastructure.

The bill also includes a requirement for the Office of Personnel Management to reform the way cyber security personnel are recruited, hired and trained to ensure the federal government has the expert staff in place necessary to implement its cybersecurity efforts.