Panel chair will push for cybersecurity standards in private sector

A House subcommittee chairman on Thursday called the nation's preparations to defend against an attack on its computer networks "simply not acceptable" and vowed to offer legislation by the end of the year mandating computer-security standards for the private sector.

Florida Republican Adam Putnam, chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology offered that criticism at an e-government conference jointly sponsored by the Business Software Alliance and Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Texas Republican Pete Sessions, vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cyber Security, and Zoe Lofgren, the ranking Democrat on that panel, echoed Putnam's point. They also said key immigration databases are not networked, leaving the nation vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists.

"We want to begin the [legislative] process before a major disaster happens," Putnam said. The bills on the issue will be "a meaningful approach to securing cyber architecture."

Putnam said he came to the issue with an open mind and was not predisposed toward "knee-jerk regulation." But he said the consistent failure of businesses to secure their networks warrants congressional action. "It is incumbent on the private sector to get their house in order," he said.

He also criticized the Bush administration and Congress for not taking the issue seriously. "There's a lack of attention and understanding by Congress and the administration as to the serious nature of the threat," he said. "It's not as sexy or engaging as protecting against the terrorist threat to airplanes or the Brooklyn Bridge."

He reserved special criticism for the security of federal computer networks, noting that all of them had failed annual security audits. "As much as I place blame on the federal government, much of the blame is due Congress," he said. "We are not exercising the level of oversight that we should have" over the government's technology purchases and security operations.

Lofgren and Sessions said their committee will hold hearings during the next weeks to take testimony from private-sector computer-security experts.

"I think many aspects of the government related to security are in the dark ages," Lofgren said. "Until we get technology deployed in the immigration area, we will be highly vulnerable." A "watch list" of potential terrorists has not been deployed, she added, and 100 key immigration databases cannot communicate with each other.

She noted that confusion about immigration policy has kept out the United States foreign students who otherwise will pursue higher education in Europe.

"Fifty-three percent of the universities in America reported that foreign students missed their first semester due to immigration problems," she said. "We are shooting ourselves in the foot if we allow the best minds in the world to go to Germany or France instead."

"It was inconceivable to me that 10 weeks after the [Sept. 11, 2001,] attacks the government admitted for citizenship two of the terrorists who were on those planes," Sessions added. That showed that on the issue of security, government was "completely asleep at the wheel."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.