Democratic senators criticize administration's cybersecurity efforts

Senate Democrats on Thursday assailed the Bush administration over its failure to fill a Cabinet-level post it created last July within the Homeland Security Department for a cyber security czar.

In the wake of several high-profile data breaches at government agencies this year, Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont said the administration has been reckless in its refusal to fill the position in a timely manner. He said individuals whose personal information has been compromised have paid the price for such mistakes.

"I wish we were just talking about security," Leahy said. "Unfortunately, we're talking about incompetence."

Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said it is hypocritical for lawmakers to demand that private companies secure and protect the personal information of individuals for which they are responsible when the government itself has been so careless.

The theft of a laptop computer belonging to the Veterans Affairs Department this spring exposing the personal information of more than 26 million Americans is the "tip of the iceberg," Schumer said. The computer was recovered last month. He added that data breaches at the Agriculture, Energy and Health and Human Services departments indicate complacency at all levels of government.

"The bottom line is what bank robbery was in the Depression, ID theft is to the information age," Schumer said.

According to Schumer, the Bush administration missed a crucial opportunity after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to establish measures to protect American's information technology infrastructure.

"The administration completely overlooked the pink gorilla in the room -- cyberspace," Schumer said.

Floridian Bill Nelson said Homeland Security's inaction on cyber security is demonstrative of its overall inadequacy. He said the department's response to hurricanes in his state during the past several years has been inexcusable. He called its management of cyber security "unconscionable."

Nelson said he is frustrated that lawmakers have not been given an opportunity to craft a combination of the data security bills approved by the Commerce and Judiciary committees in the past year. Leahy blamed the GOP leadership for not allowing his colleagues to bring up the proposals.

"There's no reason that these two bills can't be married up," Nelson said.

Paul Kurtz, director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, said the Bush administration has gone "absent without leave" on information security issues and that no government body is more responsible than the Homeland Security. Kurtz said the stakes for inaction are high because the U.S. economy and government security systems depend so heavily on digital infrastructures.

"Digital systems underpin our national and economic security," said Kurtz, who dealt with cyber security issues as a former special assistant to President Bush.

Leahy echoed Kurtz's call for immediate federal action. He said a well-crafted cyber attack on the United States could be just as disastrous as a physical one, because it could happen at any time and could come from anywhere.

"The administration is big on rhetoric and awfully slow on reality," Leahy said.

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.