Rockefeller calls on Obama to issue cybersecurity executive order

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The voluntary program outlined in the stalled cybersecurity bill would have offered incentives, such as government assistance when dealing with a cyber threat, to operators of critical infrastructure for meeting security standards developed by the government. 

Rockefeller acknowledged in the letter to Obama that a program created through executive action "cannot include such incentives," but said "it is critical that we move forward."

In the letter, Rockefeller proposed Obama create a program that would call on the government and the private sector to work together to develop cybersecurity best practices for critical infrastructure. These best practices would be implemented in the private sector through "collaboration with" the Homeland Security Department.

"I believe companies that own critical infrastructure will choose to participate in this program because it will be their best option to protect themselves against the cyber threat facing our nation, Rockefeller wrote. "This cyber threat is unprecedented and we need an innovative and cooperative approach between the private sector and the federal government to protect the country from it."

Senate Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed the voluntary program proposed in the Cybersecurity Act and said it would open a back door for the government to tack additional regulations onto industry. 

They argued that the private sector should help develop the security standards and receive wider liability protections for its participation in the program.

Rockefeller said the co-sponsors of the cybersecurity bill — including Senate Homeland Security Committee leaders Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — will continue advocating for the measure. Rockefeller also criticized GOP opposition to the bill, saying he couldn't recall a time during his Senate tenure when "a filibuster has obstructed genuine efforts to address a threat to our national security that is so urgent and widely recognized."

John Brennan, the White House's chief counterterrorism adviser, said last week that the Obama administration is considering imposing cybersecurity rules via executive order after the Cybersecurity Act failed to gain enough Republican support to move forward. Such a move would not sit well with Senate Republicans and business groups that opposed the cybersecurity measure earlier this month.

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