April 27, 2017–The White House has provided feedback on a bill that would create an “operational” cyber protection unit at the Department of Homeland Security, clearing the way for the introduction of the legislation, Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) said today. The White House feedback was “very positive,” Rep. McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a CTIA cybersecurity summit. “The administration, I think, supports this. We’ll be introducing the bill soon,” he said. Rep. McCaul has said that the reorganization of DHS’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) into an operational unit devoted to cybersecurity and the protection of critical infrastructure would be among his top priorities in 2017 (TR Daily, Dec. 7, 2016). The idea has bipartisan support, but he was waiting until he received the White House’s “technical assistance” remarks before introducing legislation, Rep. McCaul said.
Although he intends to pursue legislation to update DHS’s authorization statutes, the NPPD reorganization bill will be introduced first as stand-alone legislation, he told the CTIA audience. “We’d like to move it quickly,” he said. “This is too important. We want to move it as a stand-alone.” Last year, the legislation, known as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency Act (HR 5390), cleared the Homeland Security Committee on a bipartisan vote but did not reach the House floor.
Rep. McCaul also will introduce separate legislation, as early as today, that would expand an existing “scholarship-for-service” program that provides college funding for students who agree to join the federal government’s cybersecurity workforce, he said. His other priorities include increasing spending on quantum computing technology that he described as a “digital atomic bomb” that would make existing encryption techniques useless. The Russian and Chinese governments are investing in quantum computing research, he said, and it is imperative that the U.S. develop the technology first. “We don’t want them to have that capability before we do,” he said. – Tom Leithauser, firstname.lastname@example.org