As the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 reached its first hearing at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Deputy Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate for the Department of Homeland Security Philip Reitinger spoke about the bill to give the president emergency powers of the Internet during a cyber attack.
Reitinger stressed his point that the government needs an in-depth approach to dealing with cyber threats and the protection of sensitive government information, but would rather not create a separate organization to do so.
“As bad as the loss of precious national intellectual capital is, we increasingly face threats that are even greater,” he said. ‘We can never be certain that our information infrastructure will remain accessible and reliable during a time of crisis, but we can reduce the risks.”
Reitinger said the administration’s review of the bill, which was released last week, is incomplete and could not give a timeline on when this would be done. He mentioned revisions of the bill should be aware that the president already has certain emergency powers and care should be taken to avoid overlapping the law.
As such, the bill declined the Obama administration’s endorsement in the hearing. Instead, the deputy suggested the current Section 706 of Communications Act should be used as a foundation for revisions in the law, as opposed to the creation of a new one.
He said the DHS “recognizes that Americans expect the federal government to anticipate, prevent, and respond to cyber threats.” And, he said, the provisions should “acknowledge that the government may need to take extraordinary measures to fulfill these responsibilities.”
While the current bill remains unsupported by the administration, it is just one example of the evolving legislation to strengthen government cyber-defense strategies.