RSA Live: Capitol Hill Aides Eye ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ from Solarium Report

Congressional staffers on House and Senate committees with strong interest in cybersecurity issues said today they are watching for “low-hanging fruit” in the form of easy-to-enact legislative proposals expected to make up some of the recommendations in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) report set to be released on March 11.

The CSC has been working since May 2019 on a bipartisan review of cyber threats to the U.S., and policy recommendations to better defend against them.  Several CSC members explained this week that the report will contain dozens of recommendations for both Congress and the White House, and will feature draft legislation that the commission hopes legislators can address over the next year.

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Speaking today at the RSA security conference in San Francisco, staffers from the House and Senate Homeland Security committees said they were eager to see the report’s recommendations. But they added a note of caution by saying some of the legislative remedies they expect to see will probably garner quick congressional support, while others are more likely to be shelved for the longer term.

 

“We are looking forward to seeing those recommendations,” said Hope Goins, Majority Staff Director of the House Homeland Security Committee.  She said the legislative proposals that have bipartisan appeal will likely get the quickest consideration.  However, she added, some of the proposals “may not be able to be resolved in one Congress.”

Since CSC’s specific legislative proposals are not yet known for certain, the aides could not comment on them in great detail.

“Some will be low-hanging fruit and we can pass those to get things moving along,” said Jeffrey Rothblum, Senior Professional Staff Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee working for Ranking Member Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. “But some will remain on the shelf until we need them” down the road – perhaps in the event of worsening security conditions, he indicated.

Michelle Woods, Director of Homeland Security for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she is watching the report for any recommendations regarding changed roles or authorities for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) component.  CSC members indicated earlier this week the report may contain recommendation along those lines.

Each of the committee staffers said their bosses are interested in considering legislation that would address cyber workforce gaps in the government and the private sector, and continue to improve state and local-level election security.  Sen. Peters is particularly interested in getting the House to pass a Senate-approved bill allowing rotation of cyber personnel through numerous Federal agencies, Rothblum said.

Based on their comments today, other legislative proposals that would draw interest from House and Senate committee members include firming up CISA’s role in the cyber fight, and designating a “strategic leader” in the government for cybersecurity.

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