National Security Leaders Urge Passage of Cybersecurity Bill

Monday, June 11, 2012

Former military and intelligence community leaders who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations have drafted a letter urging the passage of cybersecurity legislation that will offer protections for critical infrastructure.

The letter addresses concerns over the lack of progress in the development of meaningful security legislation after years of partisan wrangling, and many feel that time is running out.

“Given the time left in this legislative session and the upcoming election this fall, we are concerned that the window of opportunity to pass legislation that is in our view critically necessary to protect our national and economic security is quickly disappearing,” the letter states.

Over the last several years, dozens of cybersecurity legislative proposals have been introduced.

Most notably, in 2010 the Protecting Cyber Space as a National Asset Act was proposed in order to bolster the government's network security stance and offer guidance on further protecting systems that administer critical infrastructure like communications, power, and water supply mechanisms.

The bill survived committee, but was subsequently never debated by the Senate as a whole.

In February of 2011, Majority Leader Reid directed multiple committees in the Senate to amalgamate the myriad of legislative proposals related to cybersecurity into one comprehensive bill, which culminated in the drafting of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

This legislation, in contrast to previous proposals, has enjoyed the widest level of support throughout the Senate and regulated industries, and it offers language to improve security related to critical infrastructure.

“Various drafts of legislation have attempted to address this important area — the Lieberman/Collins bill having received the most traction until recently,” the letter states.

The bill has recently run into some resistance both in the Senate and from some in the private sector who believe the proposal is too dependent on punitive and regulatory strategies where incentivization is needed, but it may still make it to the Senate floor for open debate and perhaps a vote.

The signers of the letter to the Senate were careful not to wade into the political aspect of the debate, preferring to more generally advocate that whatever the final legislation may be, the message is that something has to be done now to protect vulnerable systems for the sake of national security.

"We will not advocate one approach over another, however, we do feel strongly that critical infrastructure protection needs to be addressed in any cyber security legislation," the letter maintains.

The letter was signed by the following:

  • Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James Cartwright
  • Fformer Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
  • Former National Security Agency and CIA Director Michael Hayden
  • Former Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn III
  • Former National Security Agency Director
  • Former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell
  • Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz

The full letter can be downloaded and viewed here:

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