OVERNIGHT TECH: Cyber Command chief says threat is increasing

THE LEDE: Gen. Keith Alexander, head of both the National Security Agency as well as U.S. Cyber Command, told the House Committee on Armed Services that the threat of cyber attacks that cause physical damage is now real and greater than ever. Alexander said portions of the nation's critical infrastructure are not prepared to handle the new type of cyber attack, which he likened to a kinetic assault. But Alexander emphasized Cyber Command's need for more trained personnel and additional authorities to combat the growing threat.

House debates defunding NPR: The House will vote Thursday on a bill that would remove federal funding for NPR. Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) slammed the move as hastily considered and against the public interest. Repulicans have increased the pressure on NPR in recent months following the October firing of news analyst Juan Williams (who writes a column for The Hill) and the recent resignation of top NPR executives after a fundraiser for the organization was secretly taped making inflammatory remarks about the Tea Party.

Broadcasters and FCC go back and forth on spectrum inventory: FCC chairman Julius Genachowski dismissed the need for an additional spectrum inventory on Wednesday and urged Congress to give the agency the authority to conduct incentive auctions hastily.  Genachowski also sided decisively with the wireless industry against claims from the broadcasters that firms are "hoarding" airwaves purchased at auction. The NAB responded by asking for specific data on how firms have deployed their spectrum.

Langevin debuts cyber bill: Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) unveiled a comprehensive cybersecurity bill on Wednesday that would give DHS authority over private sector networks deemed part of the nation's critical infrastructure. Langevin's bill came out the same day CSIS director James Lewis told the House Homeland Security Committee that a voluntary approach to civilian cybersecurity wouldn't effectively stop attacks.

White House backs online privacy bill: The White House came out in favor of online privacy legislation for the first time on Wednesday. NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said the administration now thinks Congress should act on the issue and said any bill should establish a privacy bill of rights, give the FTC authority to enforce the rules and offer incentives to firms that comply.

Media Access Project boss steps down: Former FCC Commissioner Tyrone Brown stepped down on Wednesday as president of Media Access Project after a year leading the advocacy group. Former Federal Trade Commissioner Moselle Thompson will lead the search for Brown's replacement.

On Tap for Thursday:

The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing on the Freedom of Information Act in honor of Sunshine Week, which is dedicated to government openness and transparency. Witnesses at the 9:30 a.m. hearing at the Rayburn House Office Building include representatives from the National Archives, Justice Department, and the Project on Open Government Oversight.

The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing at 10:30 a.m. at the Russell Senate Office Building to examine federal investments in research and development. Witnesses include OSTP director John Holdren, National Science Foundation director Subra Suresh and NASA chief scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will meet with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group at the White House to discuss issues including innovation and clean energy. In the afternoon Locke will testify on the Department's budget in front of the House Appopriations Committee.

ICYMI:

AllThingsD reports the feds are getting close to approve Google's purchase of ITA Software.

- The ACLU says the military's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning violates the Constitution. 

- The CCIA has come out against the White House's recommendations for intellectual property enforcement.

- Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bill to examine the FOIA backlog.

- Netflix doesn't like AT&T's new data cap for DSL customers.