Cyber security bill fails to advance in US Senate

02 August 2012 19:01  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--A bill to establish a national cyber security agency failed on a procedural vote in the US Senate on Thursday, meaning that any major federal action to defend business systems from foreign attacks likely will not emerge until next year.

The Senate voted 52-46 to end debate on S-3414, the Cyber Security Act of 1012, but at least 60 votes were needed to move the bill forward to a vote on its merits.  Only four Republican senators voted in favour, and six Democrats joined 40 Republicans in opposing final consideration of the bill.

The defeat of S-3414 was likely to be welcomed by many in US business, including the chemicals sector, because it was seen as giving the federal government too much authority and involvement in companies’ computer systems and trade relations.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) had opposed S-3414, saying in a letter to Senate leaders that the bill’s approach “may actually hamper public-private partnerships in favour of a rigid federal oversight programme”.

ACC president Cal Dooley noted that the US chemicals industry is already subject to federal cyber security requirements under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS).

“We are concerned that the approach proposed in S-3414 would create duplicative requirements for the chemical sector,” Dooley said, adding that “Any legislative initiative should recognise and account for existing regulatory programmes.”

Instead, Dooley urged a federal cyber security policy that would create “a system that will put timely, reliable and actionable information into the hands of companies so that they can better protect their systems and assets”.

That is more or less the approach taken by a cyber security bill, HR-3523, approved by the House in late April, although the ACC has not expressed support for a particular House bill. 

HR-3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), was approved on 26 April by a vote of 248-168, largely along party lines. It was sent to the Senate in early May and is pending before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The US Chamber of Commerce also opposed the Senate bill and voiced support for the House CISPA measure, saying that the latter “prizes collaboration over regulation”.

Following the Senate defeat on Thursday, the ACC said that it “appreciates the efforts in both the House and Senate to address cyber security, and we will continue to work with Congress and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to pursue initiatives that promote the free flow of commerce and economic growth, while protecting critical cyber systems and the privacy of information.”

But with the House-approved and Republican-backed bill unlikely to get support in the Democrat-majority Senate, and the Democrat-favoured Senate bill having failed to advance on Thursday, the cyber security issue probably will not get congressional action until the new 113th Congress convenes in January after the November national elections.

The cyber security issue has emerged as a major concern among policymakers and industry officials and was a focus of interest at the recent Chemical Sector Security Summit (CSSS) in Baltimore, Maryland, earlier this week.

By: Joe Kamalick
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