Friday, March 14, 2014

Subcommittee Amends and Approves HR 4186

This morning the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a markup hearing on HR 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014. The Subcommittee adopted a number of amendments, rejected a few, and adopted the amended version of the bill by a voice vote.

This bill is essentially an authorization bill for a variety of federal science and technology programs, including:

• The National Science Foundation (Title I)
• The Office of Science and Technology Policy (Title III)
• National Institute of Standards and Technology (Title IV)

The only area of this bill that might be of specific interest to the readers of this blog would be §504, Cyber-physical systems. Actually §502 of the bill defined ‘cyber-physical systems’ with a definition added to 15 USC 5503. It defines them as “physical or engineered systems whose networking and information technology functions and physical elements are deeply integrated and are actively connected to the physical world through sensors, actuators, or other means to perform monitoring and control functions” {§502(f)(2)}

Section 504 then goes on to amend 15 USC 5511(a)(1)(I) to modify the current focus of research on cyber-physical systems from ‘improving the security’ to ‘improving the security, reliability, and resilience’ of those systems. It then goes on to add an additional focus {§5511(a)(1)(K)} on increasing the understanding of the ‘scientific principles of cyber-physical systems’ to improve the methods for the design, development and operation of those systems.

So much for any real mention of control system security in this bill. None of the amendments considered (either adopted or rejected) would do anything to further cybersecurity of control systems.

Moving Forward

As I noted in an earlier post about this bill, the Committee leadership certainly wants this bill to move forward. We will see a full committee markup within a couple of weeks. I also suspect that this bill will get to the floor of the House before the summer recess. I expect, though, that that will be as far as it gets. It won’t be because of any specific opposition to this bill, it will just get caught in the election year summer log jam.

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