Thursday, May 12, 2016

S 1846 Reported in Senate

On Tuesday the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee published their report on S 1846, Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (CIPA) of 2015. The report and revised language of the bill reflect changes made to the bill during a markup hearing conducted last July.

Changes to the Bill

The first significant change to the bill is found in the way it changes definitions in 6 USC 101. Instead of a single definition for ‘EM Threat’, the new language adds two definitions; one for ‘EMP’ (electromagnetic pulse) and a separate definition for ‘GMD’ (geomagnetic disturbance). Both EMP and GMD were included in the definition of EM Threat in the original language.

This revised definition results in a large number of editorial changes in the subsequent wording of the bill where ‘EMP and GMD’ are substituted for ‘EM’ or ‘EM Threat’. The real significance of this change is not apparent until the revised wording for the proposed addition to 6 USC 121(d) is seen. The original change called for a study on how to protect critical infrastructure against EM threats. The new wording calls for a similar report, but only after requiring an “intelligence-based review and comparison of the risk and consequence of threats and hazards, including GMD and EMP, facing critical infrastructures” {new §121(d)(26)(A)}. This means that the EMP and GMD threats are evaluated separately and may be treated differently in the subsequent strategy.

Similar wording changes were made in the proposed language for the new §319 (GMD and EMP Mitigation Research and Development) and the new §527 (National Planning and Education).

Moving Forward

Publication of this report indicates that Johnson is prepared to try to move this bill forward to the Floor of the Senate. I doubt that this bill will engender any significant debate or amendments; it does not allow any new regulations or expenditures. It is probable that this bill would be considered under the Senate’s unanimous consent provisions with no debate and no actual vote.

The House bill on this topic (HR 1073) was reported last August, but there has been no move to bring it to the floor. That bill is not as extensive in its treatment of the EMP threat (the definition of which in that bill encompasses both the EMP and GMD issues identified in this bill).

The big problem here for both of these bills is that there are some congress critters that are passionate about this problem, but for most it is seen as a non-issue. The closer we get to the summer recess, the less likely it is that either of these bills will see floor action. Higher priority bills are going to squeeze them out of the available time.


The changes to the S 1846 will place the risks to the grid from EMP attacks or GMD activities in a more realistic perspective. Requiring the evaluation of these risks alongside the other risks to critical infrastructure will help to ensure that appropriate responses to all of the risks are properly prioritized.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */