Bill: Cybersecurity Advisor Would Report to President

Is Senate Measure At Odds with White House Intent? Legislation to create a national cybersecurity advisor who would report directly to the President was introduced in the Senate Wednesday.

The legislation would establish the Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor within the Executive Office of the President. The national cybersecurity advisor would serve as the lead official on all cyber matters, coordinating with the intelligence community and civilian agencies and report directly to the president, according to the bill's Senate sponsors, Democrat John Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The panel claims oversight over the nation's critical IT infrastructure.

The bill could be at odds with recommendations expected later this month from White House cybersecurity expert Melissa Hathaway, who's conducting a two-month review of federal government cybersecurity policies and procedures. According to two lawmakers briefed by Hathaway last week, the Obama administration has yet to decide whether the so-called cybersecurity czar would report directly to the president or through the existing National Security Council.

The legislation incorporates many of the recommendations found in the report of the highly touted Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, sponsored by the Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which includes the establishment of a White House cyber office. "We felt that we needed to elevate the importance of cybersecurity and have an oversight that was really at a higher level of our government," commission co-chairman and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege said in an interview with before the bill was introduced.

According to its sponsors the legislation would, if enacted:

Raise significantly the profile of cybersecurity within the federal government and streamlining cyber-related government functions and authorities;

Promote public awareness and protect civil liberties;

Remake the relationship between government and the private sector on cybersecurity; and

Foster innovation and creativity in cybersecurity to develop long-term solutions.

"Our failure to implement effective policies and procedures to protect critical infrastructure, prevent invasive intrusion and conduct an aggressive threat assessment has proven extremely consequential, putting the American information system at grave risk," Snowe said in a statement accompanying the introduction of the bill. "It is abundantly clear we must unite on all fronts to confront this monumental challenge, if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina."

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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