Speedy cybersecurity legislation killed by turbulence

Speedy cybersecurity legislation killed by turbulence

An attempt by House Republican leaders to strengthen the Office of Management and Budget's role in cybersecurity was withdrawn late Thursday after industry and government officials voiced their opposition to the provision in legislation overhauling the U.S. intelligence community.

Media reports this week had described the legislation as shifting responsibility for cybersecurity from the Homeland Security Department to the Office of Management and Budget. But David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, disputed that. He said the reports missed the distinction between policy authority and operational authority.

'There was no transfer of function,' Marin said. 'We didn't touch the DHS position. [The language] would expand the OMB director's responsibility for IT security policy.'

The high-profile confusion was enough, however, for the language to be pulled out. 'The bill has a million moving parts, and the people handling it didn't need the distraction,' Marin said.

An industry executive familiar with the proposed change blamed the confusion on the speed with which the legislation is moving.

'The first version was a major policy shift, and you don't do a major policy shift at the eleventh hour without consulting anyone,' the executive said, adding that he thought it was more a question of imprecise language than a conscious attempt to shift direction.

'When the leadership says, 'Here's how it's going to proceed, and if you want something in a bill, get it to us quickly,' [it] doesn't go through the vetting process,' the executive said. 'This bill became a victim of lightning speed politics and policy.'

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