As a member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, protecting our national and economic security against cyber threats is one of my top priorities. I am proud to have been a primary author of the first comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to pass either chamber of Congress, and I am equally proud to have been one of the first Members of Congress to speak out about the need to address this growing threat. I am a strong believer in the need for minimum standards for the most vulnerable and important sectors of our critical infrastructure, and I will continue to push for the enactment of the toughest possible cyber protections for the American people while ensuring that the civil liberties we cherish are preserved.
Cyberspace Coordination Act
On August 5, 2013, I introduced the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act, which aims to strengthen the country’s defenses against cyber threats. The Act reflects concerns highlighted in a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, which I co-chaired, including the vulnerability of critical infrastructure. My bill will update the federal government’s ability to respond to challenges in cyberspace and bring additional protections to critical infrastructure like the power grid. Among the major provisions in the bill is the creation of a National Office for Cyberspace to coordinate and oversee the security of information systems across the federal government. It includes a mechanism to better coordinate the resources of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, under the authority of the Office of the President; directs the creation of secure federal acquisition policies; and provides for the strengthening of critical infrastructure protections and of the public-private partnership that is essential for any cybersecurity effort to be successful. The bill also directs the government to support technical education for students.
RI Cyber Foundations Competition
As the field of securing our cyber networks becomes a greater component of our national and economic security strategies, we must develop a competent workforce that can support it. In 2010, the US Cyber Challenge launched the High School Cyber Challenge to test the computer networking skills of students, while introducing them to the growing field of information technology. I am pleased that Rhode Island was one of the first states to take part in this competition, which tests student skills in important foundations of effective cyber security.
High school students throughout Rhode Island are invited to sign up for the Rhode Island Cyber Foundations Competition, which is run by the Center for Internet Security, a national non-for-profit organization responsible for identifying and developing potential talent for the cyber security workforce of the future.
I am grateful to community partners in Rhode Island, such as New England Institute of Technology and McCabe Software, for the donations and support that make this competition possible. I am hopeful that by partnering with others in the cyber community, this challenge will grow into a national model for harnessing our young cyber talent. I also look forward to continuing to expand the information technology field in Rhode Island.
House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
In the 113th Congress, I am proud to continue my service on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees. With my experience on these national security committees, I am able to bring a unique and broad perspective to our efforts to defend the nation from cyber attack while strengthening the capabilities of our military and intelligence communities.
I was pleased to see the President’s establishment of an office for cybersecurity in the National Security Council to help coordinate our homeland defense, intelligence and military cyber efforts. The Department of Defense’s decision to stand up Cyber Command also shows the critical importance of our information infrastructure to our national defense and our ability to project American military power overseas. I look forward to working within my committees to continue strong and effective oversight of our cyber defense and assist the Administration in implementing these efforts.
Cybersecurity Commission and Presidential Review
In 2008, I was honored to serve as a Co-Chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency. This Commission, made up of dozens of experts from around the country, both in and out of government, was formed to provide a blueprint to the incoming administration for improving the cybersecurity posture of federal systems and our nation’s critical infrastructure. It is clear that cybersecurity issues deserve the full attention of our government and I am pleased that our recommendations have assisted President Obama in the formation of a robust strategy that recognizes the urgency and importance of this issue. I commend the President for making cybersecurity a priority in his Administration and issuing an Executive Order that promises to significantly advance the state of our cyber preparedness, and I will continue to work with the White House and with my Congressional colleagues to enact the statutory changes needed to build on that foundation.
Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus
In September 2008, I joined Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) in founding the first-ever Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. Congressman McCaul and I recognize that while Congress plays a key role in the future of cybersecurity policy, the overlap of committee jurisdictions can sometimes divide the attention and focus of Congress on these issues. The Caucus helps to raise awareness and provide a nonpartisan forum for Members representing different committees of jurisdiction to discuss the challenges in securing cyberspace. Additionally, the Caucus continually educates Congressional staff on the many complex issues encompassed by cybersecurity.
One of the keys to improving cybersecurity in America is raising awareness of the threats facing us and the steps we can take to minimize risk. We know that computer attacks on the systems that run our critical infrastructure could have a devastating impact on the economy, public health, and national security of the United States. It is equally important that users and administrators of computer systems across the spectrum understand what is at stake and what steps are necessary to ensure safety. From local law enforcement officers to corporate CIOs to average home users, we all have a role to play.
I have introduced legislation that supports the goals of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and seeks to raise awareness of the importance of computer security in our country. I will also continue to raise these critical issues as I visit with business groups, students, law enforcement officials and others willing to join the effort to ensure that cybersecurity is a priority for us all.