House Dem says Panetta understands cybersecurity

Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta would make an excellent secretary of defense in part due to his appreciation for the urgency of protecting the nation's computer networks, according to a House Democrat vocal on cybersecurity issues.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) released a statement Thursday praising President Obama's plans to nominate Panetta to lead the Pentagon and Gen. David Petraeus to succeed him at the CIA. Langevin introduced a comprehensive cybersecurity bill in the House last month as Senate Democrats promised to reopen the debate in the coming months.

“I am particularly pleased to know that Director Panetta will have a full appreciation for the increasing sense of urgency with which we must approach cybersecurity issues. Earlier this year, Panetta warned that ‘the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyberattack,’" Lagenvin said.

"His leadership in speaking out and raising awareness about the risk of cyberthreats to our critical infrastructure and sensitive information has been invaluable for those of us working closely to address vulnerabilities in these areas."

The amount of authority given to the military and intelligence agencies over civilian government networks will be one of the crucial sticking points of the upcoming legislative debate.

While Senate Democratic leadership has indicated they have reached a compromise that will give the Department of Homeland Security the primary responsibility of protecting federal networks, Republicans could throw a wrench in those plans by insisting the military be given a greater role in any cybersecurity effort.