Who's Protecting Cyberspace?
Protecting the nation's cybersecurity is becoming a federal priority, as experts warn that cyberterrorists could target not only networks, but also many services and infrastructure operations controlled by computers.
Faced with a July 12 deadline to act on its portion of the President's bill, the House Committee on Science is moving to beef up the legislation to prepare the country for terrorist attacks on computer networks. Bush suggests creating a new cabinet department in one of the largest-ever reorganizations of government.
"Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the bill the Administration has sent us simply does not give research and development a high enough profile to enable the Department of Homeland Security to accomplish its goals," says Sherwood Boehlert (R-New York), committee chair. "The bill does not even explicitly mention R&D in some critical areas, such as cybersecurity and transportation security."
Boehlert's statements come amid
"Just two days ago, this Committee was told yet again... that cybersecurity [research and developmbent] has become a backwater and that as a result the nation lacks the tools it needs to foil a cyberattack," Boehlert said at a June 27 committee hearing.
Experts are increasingly concerned that cyberterrorists could attack much of the nation's critical physical infrastructure that is controlled by computers, such as dams, electrical grids, or emergency response systems.
there is clearly a greater awareness that harms in cyberspace don't necessarily
remain in cyberspace," says John Tritak, director of the
President Bush's bill, HR5005, would create a Department of Homeland Security with four operational units: Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures; Border Transportation and Security; and Emergency Preparedness and Response. Each would be headed by an undersecretary.
Some House Science Committee members argue that an undersecretary for research and development should be added to organize the various research units in this new department, a recommendation made by the National Research Council.
"This [change] will substantively change the function of this department... because there will be a single unit focusing on R&D," says David Goldston, the committee's chief of staff.
The President proposes that the undersecretary for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures oversee research and development, says John Marburger, director of the Executive Office of Science and Technology Policy.
However, Marburger notes, "The President's proposal is intended to be a document that sets a general framework and is by no means complete in its details."
The trade group Information Technology Association of America wants to see cybersecurity emphasized in the proposed department in some way, says Bob Cohen, ITAA senior vice president.
"We think that it's important [cybersecurity] does have a high-level focus and that it not be buried in any kind of organization where it wouldn't have that kind of visibility," he says.
The House Committee on Science is no
stranger to cybersecurity legislation. The Cybersecurity Research and
The committee will probably mark up the legislation the week following the July 4 recess, says committee spokesperson Heidi Tringe.