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Langevin's Big Cybersecurity Day

A subcommittee of the House's Homeland Security Committee is marking up its cybersecurity bill today and has just signed off on an amendment, proposed by Congressman Jim Langevin, that would require the Department of Homeland Security to work with regional cybersecurity collaboratives, like the one he has helped launch in Rhode Island.

The mark-up comes as DC insider publication Roll Call publishes an op-ed by Langevin arguing that Washington has to approach cybersecurity with a new sense of urgency. From the piece:

The dialogue on cybersecurity has come a long way in the past few years. The news is awash with stories of theft of personal financial information, silent but effective espionage against our defense establishment and the potential effect of attacks against our pervasively networked critical infrastructure. However, the time for simply talking about solutions is quickly running out.

Despite numerous proposals to enact the comprehensive reforms we need, we have failed to make our laws and practices relevant to our 21st-century economy because of a missing sense of urgency and a lack of understanding of the role cybersecurity plays in our daily lives.

The bill the House is considering represents a compromise between Republicans and some Democrats - including Langevin - over one of the more controversial elements of cybersecurity policy: how much of a regulatory burden to impose on private companies that control critical parts of the nation's infrastructure, like our power grid.

The measure, on balance, takes the sort of light touch favored by the GOP, which controls the House. Private industry would be encouraged to share information with the government on cyber threats. But the bill does not impose the strict security standards on utilities and the like that many cybersecurity experts, and quite a few Democrats, think are necessary.

Langevin, himself, took a tougher approach to industry in a bill that passed the House in 2010, when Democrats were still in control, but stalled in the Senate, which was intent on passing a more comprehesive cybersecurity bill

The Democratic-controlled Senate finally seems poised to pass a bill of its own, meaning cybersecurity legislation of some kind has a much better chance of getting to President Obama's desk than in the recent past.

The upper chamber's bill, soon to be released, is also said to employ a light touch on industry, though it appears it will be a bit stronger than the House bill. And as details emerge, at least some tech firms are suggesting it is overly intrusive and poorly conceived and are pushing for changes.

If something gets through, Congressman Langevin - who has struggled to point to substantive accomplishments in the House - will have a relatively high-profile bill to point to.

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