Thursday, May 26, 2011

First House Floor Vote on Cyber Security

Last night, during the debate on HR 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, one of the measures that was debated and voted upon was an amendment offered by Rep. Langevin (D, RI) that specifically dealt with cyber security issues; making it the first time this session that the whole House has taken a vote on a cyber security measure.

HR 1136

Looking at the actual language for Amendment #49, found in House Report 112-88 (the report accompanying H. Res 276, the rule governing the debate of HR 1540), it turns out that this ‘Amendment’ was actually a virtual copy of HR 1136, the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act of 2011, a bill introduced by Langevin back in March. As I noted in a blog about the bill when it was introduced, this bill was essentially an IT security bill dealing mainly with Federal cyber security. There was a section on ‘critical infrastructure’ that actually mentioned SCADA systems, but there were no real ICS cybersecurity requirements.

After the authorized 10 minutes of debate on the amendment the House voted it down on a voice vote. A recorded vote was ‘demanded’ by Rep. Langevin. As of 11:00 pm EDT last night that vote had not yet occurred. In bills with these lengthy debates and amendment processes (152 amendments were offered on this bill) the House pulls a bunch of these recorded votes together to minimize the time the Members actually have to spend on the floor of the House. A vote will be held sometime today.

This vote on a virtual copy of HR 1136 does not mean that this bill is legally dead. It is technically possible that the bill could still wend its way through the committee review and voting process to make its way back to the floor of the House. Possible but unlikely, otherwise Langevin would not have taken this to the floor as an amendment to a virtually unrelated bill; controversial amendments like this seldom pass as an amendment.

GPS Interference

Earlier this week in a blog posting about this bill I discussed the provisions of HR 1540 dealing with the GPS interference controversy. In that I dismissed an amendment by Rep. Turner (R, OH) modifying provisions of §911 of the bill dealing with the FCC’s approval of the new cell phone service by LightSpeed. That was based upon the summary of the amendment that described it as a ‘Sense of Congress’ measure. The actual amendment was published in the House Rules Committee report and it is a tad bit more potent than a ‘Sense of Congress’ measure.

The language of the Turner Amendment would actually prohibit the FCC from providing final approval of the LightSpeed license “until the Commission has resolved concerns of widespread harmful interference by such commercial terrestrial operations to the Global Positioning System devices of the Department of Defense.” {§911(a)}. This would be a much more effective response than what I had described.

Unfortunately, this still does not address the potential for interference with GPS timing signals used by some control system components. No one has actually reported interference problems with the timing signals, but I have found no reports that anyone has bothered testing this issue.

Turner’s amendment is #149 in the list of amendments to be debated on the floor during the consideration of this bill, so it will be one of the last ones considered. It will probably come up for a vote late this evening. It will be interesting to see how this vote turns out.

Continued Debate

I don’t know how long the House continued their debate of this bill last night. They will be back at it again when the come back to work today. A final vote on the bill will certainly be held before the House goes home for the long Memorial Day Weekend. The final version of the bill will almost certainly pass, probably with bipartisan support.

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