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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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