House cybersecurity bill would establish federal overseer

Members of the House Homeland Security Committee introduced a cybersecurity bill on Thursday that would establish a quasi-governmental entity to oversee information-sharing with the private sector.

Like the other cybersecurity bills offered by the House GOP, the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness (PrECISE Act) encourages private firms to share information on cyber threats but stops short of mandating new security standards for sectors deemed critical to national security.

“The risk of cyberattack by enemies of the United States is real, is ongoing and is growing," said Chairman Pete King (R-N.Y.). "The PrECISE Act, in line with the framework set forth by the Speaker’s Cybersecurity Task Force led by Rep. [Mac] Thornberry [R-Texas], protects our critical infrastructure without a heavy-handed and burdensome regulatory approach that could cost American jobs."

The bill would clearly delineate the cybersecurity functions of the Department of Homeland Security by requiring DHS to evaluate cybersecurity risks for critical infrastructure firms and determine the best way to mitigate them.

"Cybersecurity is truly a team sport, and this bill gives DHS needed authorities to play its part in the federal government’s cybersecurity mission and enables the private sector to play its part by giving them the information and access to technical support they need to protect critical infrastructure,” said House Cybersecurity subcomittee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.).

By authorizing DHS to oversee civilian cybersecurity, the legislation aligns with proposals from both the Senate and the White House, but it is unclear how much authority DHS would have to enforce its security standards. Democrats have argued DHS needs some enforcement authority to ensure firms beef up their network protections.

The other co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Rep. Bob Turner (R-N.Y.) of the Homeland Security Committee, as well as Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.).

“Introduction of this legislation represents a solid and significant step forward in the effort to secure our nation’s cyber infrastructure. While I am not prepared to give my full support to the bill at this time, there’s a lot to like in this bill," said ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). "I am pleased that it gives DHS the authority and resources it needs to fulfill its cybersecurity mission instead of creating a whole new bureaucracy or complicated regulatory framework."

"I acknowledge that this is a good first step in addressing cybersecurity issues. While we continue to review this legislation, I look forward to working with my colleagues in a more collaborative way to strengthen this bill,” added Cybersecurity sub-panel ranking member Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).