Joint Chiefs Chair Says Cybersecurity Legislation a Must

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Add General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the administration voices calling on Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation.

"We must act now," he said in a letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) after Rockefeller, a cosponsor of S. 3414, the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, reached out to the general for input on its importance.

The general said three keys to such legislation are that it encourage real-time sharing of cyberthreat information between the public and private sector without compromising civil liberties or privacy, that it establish minimum standards for critical infrastructure protection, and that the Defense Department work with industry to "stop the exfiltration of sensitive information."

On Tuesday, July 31, General Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, said the Senate should approve cybersecurity legislation this week, saying that facing down the cyberthreat "demands immediate action."

With a compromise not yet in sight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the Republicans would ultimately block a vote on S. 3414 and has called for a cloture vote Thursday which is essentially an up or down vote on restricting amendments to only those that are germane, then voting on the bill in the full Senate.

Republicans have signaled they will not support that, saying the bill needs more work. They have offered their own version of a cybersecurity bill, The SECURE IT Act, focused on info sharing, but Democrats say it lacks critical infrastructure protections.