By Jennifer Martinez - 01/31/13 10:44 PM EST
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) said the White House has signaled that it will likely introduce its cybersecurity order in the second half of February, following President Obama's State of the Union address.
"The administration is going to proffer next month an executive order, we think in the second half of February," Carper told The Hill.
"I think the smart thing for us to do would be to receive it, to read it, and I raised this as a possibility with [Commerce Committee] Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D-W.Va.] today: Maybe the relevant committees do a joint hearing ... and invite the administration to come in, explain the executive order, and invite other folks to come in and react to the executive order," Carper said.
The White House began drafting the executive order after Congress failed to pass cybersecurity legislation last year. The administration has argued that the cybersecurity threat facing the United States is too great for it not to take action while Congress grapples with passing legislation.
The executive order builds off a section in a cybersecurity bill that was co-sponsored by Rockefeller, Carper and Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which was ultimately blocked by Senate Republicans. The cyber order would create a voluntary program in which companies operating crucial infrastructure would agree to meet a set of cybersecurity standards developed, in part, by the government.
The administration was expected to issue the executive order this month, but it's been kept under wraps. White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel and other administration officials have engaged in an outreach effort with various industry groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, over the last few months to receive their feedback about what should be included in the cyber order.
A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the timing of the executive order.
Carper said he doesn't anticipate that his committee will re-introduce the same cybersecurity bill from last year, but he intends to repeat the Homeland Security Committee's efforts to put forward a joint bill with the Commerce and Intelligence committees.
Cybersecurity will likely resurface on Congress's radar this year after major U.S. banks and newspapers, such The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, have suffered a spate of cyberattacks. Defense officials have also issued warnings about Iran and China's cyber capabilities.
"I think the goal should be for the relevant committees to try to jointly introduce a common bill, and I hope not a bill with just Democratic sponsorship," Carper said. "That would be my goal, maybe not achievable, [but] that's my goal."