Sunday, March 3, 2013

Congressional Hearings – Week of 3-3-13

Both the Senate and House will be in town this week and the hearing schedule starts to get busy as budget and spending hearings move into high-gear. The subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee will hold 15 separate hearings this week, though none will be of particular interest to the cyber and chemical communities. But there are a number of other hearings that will attract attention.


The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday addressing DHS Cybersecurity: Roles and Responsibilities to Protect the Nation's Critical Infrastructure. Chairman McCaul’s (R,TX) statement about the hearing seems to indicate a possible emphasis on control systems, noting:

“Digital networks are now a conduit to our gas lines, power grids and transportation systems, therefore enemies throughout the world using the Internet have the potential to silently deliver a devastating cyber attack to our country.”

Unfortunately the witness list only includes one person with a potential interest in control systems, an electric utility representative. Witnesses include Secretary Napolitano and a panel of private sector witnesses including:

• Mr. Anish Bhimani, Chairman, Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center
• Mr. Gary W. Haynes, Chief Information Officer, Centerpoint Energy
• Mr. Dean Garfield, President and Chief Information Officer, Information Technology Industry Council
• Ms. Michelle Richardson, General Counsel, ACLU

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will conduct a joint hearing with the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Thursday entitled The Cybersecurity Partnership Between the Private Sector and Our Government: Protecting Our National and Economic Security. Chairman Rockefeller’s press release makes it clearer:

“This joint hearing will examine the development and implementation of the Executive Order issued by President Obama and explore the need for comprehensive legislation to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity.”

No witness list is provided on either Committee web site yet. One would expect Secretary Napolitano to be invited and perhaps the NIST Director. There will be the obligatory panel of private sector witnesses, hopefully at least one with a control system security background.

Rail Transportation

The Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee will meet on Tuesday to look at Freight and Passenger Rail in America’s Transportation System. No other details are currently available, but I suspect that there will be more than a little discussion about the pace of implementation of the Positive Train Control program.

DHS 10 Year Anniversary

Well DHS is 10 years old this week and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will take the opportunity to hold a hearing  Wednesday to look at The Department of Homeland Security at 10 Years: A Progress Report on Management. The first panel will be Secretary Napolitano flanked by representatives from the GAO. There will be a panel of ‘lesser’ government witnesses including:

• The Honorable  Elaine C. Duke Former Under Secretary for Management of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
• Shawn Reese Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress

There is an outside chance that there will be a passing reference to cybersecurity or the CFATS program. I won’t hold my breath though. These have both been small dollar programs in the overall history of DHS.

FY 2013 Continuing Resolution

It is not currently on the schedule but it seems extremely likely that the House Rules Committee will be holding a hearing to establish the Rule for the consideration of an as of yet un-introduced Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. At least the House Majority Leader’s web site says that the House will consider such a bill on Wednesday and Thursday, ‘subject to a rule’. The hearing will probably be late Tuesday.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this bill takes on added importance with the sequestration in effect. Twenty-four days to go from no publicly available bill to funding the government for the remainder of the fiscal year would be impressive in a semi-cooperative year. I suspect that we might see at least one short term continuing resolution before the numbers on this are resolved.

Rocks from Space

Okay this isn’t technically security related, but it’s my blog and I think this is important, so; on Wednesday the House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors. This is the first in a series of hearings on the topic; inspired, no doubt, by the recent explosion of a celestial body in the atmosphere over Russia.

It can certainly be argued that we are more likely to suffer catastrophic (on a city scale level) destruction from a space rock than we are to suffer a similar scale of destruction from a terrorist attack. It is going to happen somewhere on this planet in the not too distant future unless some pretty significant technology is put into place.

The three person panel from the government includes people that would certainly be involved in the planning for that technology:

• John P. Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
• Gen. William L. Shelton, Commander, U.S. Air Force Space Command
• Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

On the House Floor

In addition to the previously mentioned spending bill we are going to see the House address the Senate amendment to HR 307, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013. This will be considered on Monday under suspension of the rules so a 3/5 vote will be required to accept the Senate version of the bill. I expect that it will be a much larger margin than that. In the unlikely event that it fails on that vote, it will go to a conference committee.

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