Congress set to vote on cyber bills

Congress set to vote on cyber bills
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Congress will vote on two pieces of cybersecurity-related legislation this week, including a bill aimed at modernizing the federal government’s IT infrastructure. 

The House on Tuesday will consider a bill aimed at helping state and local law enforcement officials combat cyber crime by authorizing a federally funded computer forensics training center located in Hoover, Ala.  

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), who chairs a subcommittee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity efforts, introduced the bill, which has companion legislation in the Senate offered by Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: 'Good chance' Senate panel will consider bills to protect Mueller Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE (R-Iowa) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal Feinstein pushes back on Trump’s N. Korea policy Feinstein on reelection bid: ‘We will see’ MORE (D-Calif.).

A past version of the bill cleared the full House last year but never went to the Senate floor for a vote.

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House lawmakers will also vote on the Modernizing Government Technology Act, a bill introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Gerry ConnollyGerry ConnollyDem lawmaker warns of 'political and moral limitations’ to working with Trump Dems ready to deal with Trump — but it's complicated GAO: Fewer than one in four agencies will meet data center consolidation goals MORE (D-Va.), and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) to create funding channels for agencies to transition from legacy systems to newer, more secure IT infrastructure.

That bill likewise passed the House last year but was stalled after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated its cost at $9 billion. 

The new legislation, which was valued by the CBO at $500 million as a result of some changes, will advance to the House floor for a vote on Wednesday, less than a month after being introduced. It is also backed by the Trump administration, making its enactment even more likely. 

The scheduled votes signal an effort to move swiftly on legislation addressing cybersecurity in the wake of President Trump’s signing of a long-awaited executive order.

The executive order, which Trump signed Thursday, puts a priority on modernizing information technology. “Effective immediately, it is the policy of the executive branch to build and maintain a modern, secure, and more resilient executive branch IT architecture,” the order states.

Among the order’s other provisions, it holds agency leaders accountably for their own cybersecurity and directs them to abide by a cybersecurity framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a nonregulatory agency under the Department of Commerce.

It also mandates agencies complete a number of assessments on cybersecurity.

Industry representatives and several lawmakers have lauded the executive order as a good first step.

“I am … pleased that the order signals the administration’s forward-looking posture. America’s cybersecurity preparedness in the coming years depends, in part, on how successful we are in building a robust cyber workforce, and in developing a strategic deterrence strategy,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. 

“While this order isn’t a silver bullet, this order will better equip us to manage our cyber risk and defend against those who seek to do us harm, and I look forward to continued collaboration with the president and his team in the coming months,” Ratcliffe said.