House passes bill to codify key DHS cybersecurity program

House passes bill to codify key DHS cybersecurity program
© Keren Carrion

The House on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation to codify a key cybersecurity program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The bill grants Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenInvestigation into FEMA head referred to prosecutors: report Gowdy requests FEMA administrator’s travel records amid allegations The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil MORE the ability to establish the Continuous Diagnostics Mitigation (CDM) program at the agency. The program aims to protect federal networks from cyberattacks.

This bill would bring CDM into the second of its four phases of implementation, after DHS officials spent the past few years looking at the software utilized on federal networks and looking for potential vulnerabilities.

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DHS initially started the CDM program in 2012 in an effort to better protect federal networks from cyberattacks.

Rep. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: report GOP lawmakers nearing deal to get Nellie Ohr to testify Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee subpanel on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection, described the “state of our nation’s cyber readiness and resilience” as “deeply troubling" ahead of the vote on the bill.

“Making sure federal agencies have access to the tools and capabilities they need to defend their networks, and perhaps even more importantly getting DHS the data to understand cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities and to coordinate our federal network defenses, is a paramount concern in this day and age,” Ratcliffe said.

The Texas Republican also highlighted an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review from earlier this year that found that nearly 75 percent of federal agencies are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Ratcliffe celebrated the bill's passage in a statement, saying that the CDM program "has proven to be an indispensable tool for DHS and its National Protection and Programs Directorate in identifying and defending against cyber threats to our federal networks."

"Codification will help promote its ongoing success and improvement, so we can ensure our federal network protection efforts keep pace with the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape,” he said.

The House Homeland Security Committee had advanced the bill in July, and the federal government awarded a $621 million, six year-long contract to Booz Allen Hamilton earlier this year to start implementing the next three phases of CDM.