By Jennifer Martinez - 09/14/12 02:33 PM EDT
"Cybersecurity is a priority, but anything less than a strong information-sharing bill, based on policies that enhance national security and the economy, will fall short," the Republican senators wrote.
McCain, Chambliss and Hutchison were the chief authors of a cybersecurity bill, the Secure It Act, that focused on removing legal barriers that hinder companies from sharing cyber threat information with the government. The bill was a competing measure to Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) Cybersecurity Act, which Senate Republicans blocked in August.
The White House is drafting an executive order that tracks closely with a section of Lieberman's bill. The draft order proposes to create a voluntary program where operators of critical infrastructure would elect to meet a set of sector-specific security standards crafted by the government, with input from the private sector.
The GOP senators argued that the White House's approach could create a hostile relationship between government and industry.
"Unilateral action in the form of government mandates on the private sector creates an adversarial relationship instead of a cooperative one," the GOP senators wrote.
They said companies are hesitant to share information with the government about malicious source code and other threats spotted on their computer networks because they fear it would trigger lawsuits or other legal action. The three senators criticized the executive order because it left out measures that would facilitate better information sharing.
"What the country cannot afford is to build bureaucratic walls around information once it is shared with the federal government," they said.
The White House is still in the early stages of crafting the order and has not made it public yet. The administration has argued that the computer systems running critical infrastructure should meet basic security standards.
When Lieberman's bill was up for consideration in the Senate, the administration pointed to statements from current and former national security officials saying that information sharing alone is not enough to address the threat of a cyberattack hitting the United States.
McCain, Chambliss and Hutchison said they have been working with the co-sponsors of Lieberman's bill over the summer to bridge their differences on legislation. However, it's unlikely that Congress will tackle cybersecurity legislation this year with the elections on the horizon and the end of the year fast approaching.