Industry eyes future as cybersecurity language is killed

Cybersecurity policy suffered a blow when lawmakers last month pulled from the intelligence bill language that would have elevated responsibility for the issue at the Homeland Security Department, industry experts said, but they are flagging it as a top priority for the next Congress.

Senate staff dropped the provision that would have created an assistant secretary for cybersecurity during negotiations in mid-November, according to congressional and private-sector sources. One source said Bob Liscouski, Homeland Security's assistant secretary for critical infrastructure protection, went to Capitol Hill and succeeded in making the case for keeping cybersecurity under his jurisdiction rather than making it equal. The department did not return a call for comment by press time.

The source said the White House accepted the change, perhaps "unwittingly." A White House spokesman on Tuesday could not comment on ongoing negotiations. Both chambers appear likely to debate a compromise intelligence bill this week.

The House Homeland Security Committee'S Cyber Security Subcommittee on Monday recommended that the Bush administration elevate the status of the official focused on cyber security. On Tuesday, the Cyber Security Industry Alliance (CSIA) made the recommendation among others for the administration's second-term agenda.

Industry groups such as CSIA and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) have been lobbying the House and Senate leadership to put the cyber-security language back into the intelligence bill, but CSIA also is looking to next year.

"I'm not optimistic it's going to make it in if the bill is passed today," CSIA President Paul Kurtz said after a press briefing on the group's 12 recommendations. "It's a missed opportunity, no doubt. But we have created a better foundation for creating an assistant secretary position."

Kurtz said the lobbying efforts have raised understanding on the Hill and in the administration of the need to elevate the position. "I'm confident they are going to be looking at this in the 109th Congress," he said.

CSIA's other recommendations include: quick ratification of the Council of Europe cyber-crime convention; exemplary government procurement practices; stronger information sharing and analysis centers; selection of a federal agency to track the costs of cyber attacks; more cybersecurity research and development; greater funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology; improvements in the federal security-certification process; and improved security of digital control systems used by utilities.

Government oversight of cybersecurity is going through a transition. Amit Yoran departed as the cybersecurity director at Homeland Security in October, leaving no department employee with sole responsibility for the issue. His replacement, Andy Purdy, is a contract worker.

In Congress, Bob Dix, staff director at the House Government Reform Committee's technology subcommittee, will leave at month's end for Texas-based Citadel Security Software. He will serve as the company's vice president of government affairs and corporate development. And Margie Gilbert, a top aide at the House Homeland Security Committee's Cyber Security Subcommittee under Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, was in that job on detail from the Defense Department and has returned.

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