Cybersecurity figures prominently on the legislative agenda for some members in the new Congress. On Wednesday, a group of senators introduced the Cybersecurity and American Competitiveness Act, renewing the effort to enact a comprehensive framework to address what is generally understood as a real and growing threat.
"The new Congress has a real opportunity to reach needed consensus on bipartisan legislation that will strengthen our nation's cybersecurity," John Rockefeller (D-W.V.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a backer of the bill, said in a statement.
"Throughout my five years of work on cyber, our military and national security officials and our country's top business executives have made it abundantly clear that the serious threats to our country grow every day," Rockefeller said. "The private sector and the government must work together to secure the networks that are vital to American businesses and communities. It is a priority this year to act on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation."
But the comprehensive approach will likely encounter the same strain of opposition that derailed cybersecurity legislation in the last congress, according to Bruce Mehlman, a former assistant secretary of commerce and currently a partner at the lobbying firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance.
In a panel discussion at the State of the Net conference, Mehlman urged lawmakers to rally around narrow legislation that would address cybersecurity information sharing--an area where there is broad agreement--rather than insisting on the more controversial comprehensive approach.
"Information sharing has overwhelming bipartisan support," Mehlman says. "Everybody in the security infrastructure agrees, a smart information-sharing policy would advantage our cyber defenses, yet that's held hostage to a very real debate over whether the Department of Homeland Security has the competence and would be a value-added layer in oversight of critical infrastructure or not. It seems to me that debate should proceed as that debate, but that Congress, with the administration's support, instead of the opposition, should move forward with information sharing alone."