You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Cybersecurity bill dies in Congress

Nov. 15, 2012 - 05:25PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 15, 2012 - 05:25PM  |  
  • Filed Under

The Senate on Wednesday failed to pass cybersecurity legislation that would set voluntary security standards for owners of critical infrastructure, such as dams, energy and water systems.

A 51-47 vote to move forward with final passage showed a clear majority in favor of the bill, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed.

"Cybersecurity is dead for this Congress," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the vote. "What an unfortunate thing."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a co-sponsor of the Cybersecurity Act, expressed similar disappointment. "In all my years on the Homeland Security Committee, I cannot think of another issue where the vulnerability is greater and we've done less," Collins said in a statement.

Senators were at a similar crossroads in August, but some were hopeful that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans who strongly opposed the bill would at least vote to debate the bill and introduce relevant amendments. McCain, who on Wednesday initially expressed a willingness to move forward with the bill if some amendments could be introduced, ultimately voted against the bill.

Under the bipartisan bill, critical infrastructure owners would become eligible for certain benefits if they voluntarily certify through a third party that they meet cybersecurity standards. Those benefits would include liability protections in the event of a cyber attack on their systems.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who supported the bill, said he is disappointed that the bill failed in the Senate.

Republicans argued that implementing the bill would be a financial burden to industry. They also opposed the Department of Homeland Security's role in approving and overseeing cybersecurity standards for industry.

Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who voted against the bill, suggested that the Senate start over and allow all committees with jurisdiction over cyber to provide their input.

Absent cybersecurity legislation, administration leaders have said the president would move forward with an executive order to improve cybersecurity of the nation's most critical infrastructure.

Senators said that a draft of the executive order is being circulated, but it is not clear when the president will sign it. The order is said to include provisions that will establish cybersecurity standards for the 18 critical infrastructure sectors in areas where regulators have existing authority to enforce those standards. The order, however, could not provide liability protections for companies that follow those standards but are attacked.

Meanwhile, President Obama signed a classified directive in mid-October, Presidential Directive 20, that explicitly defines how the military will respond to a cyber attack using both offensive and defensive capabilities, the Washington Post reported this week. The policy also includes a process to "vet any operations outside government and defense networks and ensure that U.S. citizens' and foreign allies' data and privacy are protected and international laws of war are followed," the Post reported, citing unnamed senior officials who had seen the directive.

Jamie Barnett, senior vice president at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, said the directive is a foundation that must be built on with an executive order and cybersecurity legislation. Barnett, who has not seen the directive, said that an executive order would be a companion to the president's policy and apply to the entire government.

"This is not … everything that needs to be done," Barnett, said of the directive. "We need a clearly articulated cyber doctrine."

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook