US House Passes Cybersecurity R&D Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would authorize hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on cybersecurity research and education.

The Cybersecurity Enhancement Act would give US$395 million to the U.S. National Science Foundation to fund several cybersecurity research projects between this year and 2014.

The NSF would also get $108.7 million over five years for a cybersecurity scholarship program, in which recipients would be required to serve as a cybersecurity professional in the U.S. government after graduating from college. Bachelor's and master's degree students could get up to two years of scholarship money, and doctoral students could get three years, but students would have to serve in the federal government for the same number of years they received scholarships.

The bill, which passed Thursday by a vote of 422 to 5, also requires U.S. agencies to work together to come up with a strategic research and development plan for cybersecurity needs, focused on "innovative, transformational technologies." The bill also requires the White House Office of Science and Technology to convene a task force on how to collaborate with colleges and private business on cybersecurity research and development.

Representative Daniel Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat and prime sponsor of the bill, said the bill is important because U.S. government Web sites are under constant attack. "Cybercrime is a problem for businesses large and small and for every single American," he said on the House floor Wednesday.

The legislation, the first major piece of cybersecurity legislation passed in the past year, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Security product vendor Symantec praised the vote. The passage is a "historic step" toward ensuring better cybersecurity in the U.S., Mark Bregman, Symantec's CTO, said in a statement.

"Cybersecurity is an issue that impacts every facet of American society, be it economically, socially, in terms of education, or national security," he added. "Amidst a growing and evolving threat landscape, this bill will help improve the security of cyberspace by ensuring federal investments in cybersecurity are better focused, more effective, and that research into innovative, transformative security technologies is fully supported."

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) applauded the bill for focusing on training the U.S. government's cybersecurity workforce and on developing a cybersecurity awareness program. The education program should help individuals and small businesses better understand cybersecurity issues, CompTIA said.

The bill will "make Americans safer from cybermiscreants," Bob Kramer, CompTIA's vice president of public policy, said in a statement.

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