Outgoing Rep. Lungren hopes to remain engaged in cybersecurity efforts

A cybersecurity bill by Lungren was sidelined this spring after industry players complained to House GOP leadership that it was too regulatory, even after the California Republican watered down provisions that would have required critical infrastructure to boost the security of its networks. The measure would have placed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a hub for information sharing about cyber threats with private sector companies.

Lungren wants to see an effort for similar legislation revived in the next Congress, a hope that could come to fruition. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he plans to introduce a comparable bill to Lungren's after getting feedback from industry groups on what they want to see in legislation.

"We have to have a means by which there can be a timely transfer of information and I happen to think we have to establish DHS as the proper intersection of the private sector with the federal government, so you don't have the concerns — real or imagined — about having [the National Security Agency], which is part of the Department of Defense, being the primary intersection," Lungren said, referring to concerns privacy groups raised with a competing bill from the House Intelligence Committee. The bill would let companies share cyber threat information with the NSA and intelligence community.

Notwithstanding the concerns from privacy and civil liberties groups, a broad swath of brand name companies backed the House Intelligence Committee's cybersecurity bill, including Facebook and AT&T. The private sector has raised concerns about DHS' ability to take on new cybersecurity responsibilities given its track record on some other national security issues.

Lungren contends that the department is up for the job.

"I understand the concerns of private industry, but I will say DHS has improved," he said. "It's far more robust than what it used to be. It has a greater expertise in the area of cyber, so we ought to be moving in a direction that builds on the foundational progress that's been made."

The California Republican will not be returning to Congress next year after losing his reelection battle against Democrat Ami Bera in November. He said it "remains to be seen" what his next steps will be after leaving the House but said he plans to "spend a considerable amount of time here" in Washington.

McCaul has declined to say who he plans to name as Lungren's successor on the cybersecurity subcommittee.

Lungren said he wants to "remain engaged as a very interested private citizen" in the area of cybersecurity.

"Whatever I'm going to do, I still want to have a voice on that."