House passes defense policy bill laden with cyber provisions
The House on Thursday passed an annual defense policy bill that includes the creation of a new program where government agencies and industry can submit cyber threat information and additional digital protections for certain critical infrastructure.
Lawmakers approved the chamber’s $839 billion National Defense Authorization Act — $37 billion more than the Biden administration sought in military spending — in a 329-101 vote.
Before passage, members adopted a series of cyber-related amendments, most notably language by retiring Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) to designate “systemically important entities” to the most vital U.S. critical infrastructure, a policy move initially recommended by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Langevin served on that panel.
The new label would require operators to enact strong digital security standards and share threat intelligence with the government, in exchange for federal support.
The underlying House bill already contained another top Solarium legislative priority to establish a “Cyber Threat Environment Collaboration Program,” a portal intended to increase data sharing among members of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s new Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative.
Also related to CISA, lawmakers adopted previously introduced legislation that would codify the CISA director’s tenure to be five years and enshrine the post’s appointment process into law.
Members also adopted a provision by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) that would require CISA to investigate the sweeping SolarWinds hack and report back to Congress with policy suggestions, as well as a pair of proposals from retiring Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), including one that would create a reward program for Pentagon leaderships to give military personnel “honorary recognitions and monetary awards” up to $2,500 for “innovation” in digital operations.
The final authorization bill text will have to be hammered out by House and Senate leaders in a compromise defense bill later this year.
The Senate has not yet voted on its own defense bill but the legislation will likely be brought to the chamber floor sometime in September.
Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.