House passes three bills to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attack

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The House has passed three bills that aim to protect critical infrastructure from cyber attack through the distribution of cyber threat information, the development and procurement of new technologies, and support for the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity workforce.

Bills passed include the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (H.R. 3696), which aims to bolster the partnership between private industry and the federal government while ensuring the protection of privacy and civil liberties, among other goals. It was introduced by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Meehan (R-PA), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Yvette Clarke (D-NY).

The House also passed the Critical Infrastructure Research and Development Advancement Act (H.R. 2952), introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Meehan. Its aims include amending the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to make improvements in the laws relating to the advancement of security technologies for critical infrastructure protection.

The third bill, the Homeland Security Cybersecurity Boots-on-the-Ground Act (H.R. 3107), was introduced by Subcommittee Ranking Member Clarke. It requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish cybersecurity occupation classifications, assess the cybersecurity workforce, and develop a strategy to address identified gaps in the cybersecurity workforce.

“Last week, the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission testified that we are in a pre-9/11 mindset when it comes to cybersecurity,” said Chairman McCaul. “A successful cyberattack on our nation’s water systems, oil and gas pipelines, power grids and mass transit systems on the scale of the recent retail breaches could cause crippling economic damage and could even cost lives. …We must take action and the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act is an important step toward addressing the cyber threat. This bipartisan bill establishes a true partnership between DHS and the private sector to ensure the distribution of real-time cyber threat information in order to secure our nation in cyberspace without burdensome mandates or regulations.”

“The Critical Infrastructure Research and Development Advancement Act is…the product of collaboration between Republicans and Democrats, the Department of Homeland Security and other stakeholders,” said Subcommittee Chairman Meehan. “We identified a problem — barriers that prevented the Department from acquiring the best equipment available to protect the homeland — and we worked together to solve it. This bill will protect Americans by strengthening DHS’ ability to develop the latest technology to stay one step ahead of terrorists who wish to do us harm.”

Ranking Member Thompson commented on the Homeland Security Cybersecurity Boots-on-the-Ground Act. “I am particularly pleased that one of the bills we will be considering is legislation authored by Representative Clarke,” he said. “DHS’ success depends on how well it recruits, hires, and trains its cyber workforce.”

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