Senators: ‘bloated’ government IT departments need to clean house before ‘dictating standards to businesses’

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The federal government needs to be able to protect itself from cyber attacks before it regulates security standards for private industry, two senators said Tuesday, echoing a consistent theme of opposition to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

In an op-ed for Politico, Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin wrote that the federal government needs to be able to meet the same cybersecurity obligations it expects to place upon the private sector.

“In 2011, incidents on federal networks went up again — this time by 5 percent. At the same time, only 18 percent of federal agencies’ nearly $76 billion information technology budget was spent on security,” they wrote. “Of that amount, 76 percent of IT security costs at nondefense agencies were spent feeding a bloated bureaucracy.”

“The federal bureaucracy simply cannot compete with the private sector’s expertise and dexterity in identifying and implementing effective solutions,” the senators said. “Before dictating standards to businesses, the government should certify that it meets the same levels of IT security and efficiency that it intends to impose on the private sector.”

Paul Rosenweig of The Heritage Foundation described in May 62 well-known and embarrassing cybersecurity breaches of federal government systems.

Rosenweig noted that agencies whose networks or websites have been compromised include: the CIA, Congress, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Energy Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI, Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation and the FAA, the Treasury Department, the VA and the FTC, NASA, National Archives and Records Administration, OPM, and the Copyright Office.

Most embarrassingly, in March 2011, NASA reported that an unencrypted laptop containing the command and control codes to the International Space Station had been stolen.

Heritage Action, the think tank’s lobbying arm, opposes the bill and promised to factor how members vote on the bill into its yearly scorecard.

In a Thursday vote before the August recess, the bill was defeated. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted against the bill, leaving open the door for him to revive it when the Senate returns in September.

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