The Complex

Jim Langevin wants cyber talk in State of the Union address

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Congressional Cyber Caucus, just released the text of a letter he sent President Barack Obama, urging him to discuss cyber security in his State of the Union address next week. Langevin doesn't specify what he wants the president to say other than "I hope that you will take the unique opportunity afforded by your State of the Union address to galvanize both Congress and the public to demand immediate action to secure out country's cyberspace."

Keep in mind that the White House is famously working an executive order that is believed to contain minimum IT security standards for banks, energy companies, transportation firms, and other so-called critical infrastructure providers in the wake of Congress's repeated failures to pass cyber security legislation last year.

This comes just after a New York Times report saying that the White House has decided it can conduct preemptive cyber strikes if it thinks such actions will stave off a major cyber attack that could seriously damage the United States. Last October, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Defense Department is prepared to conduct this type of aggressive defense.

Here's the text of Langevin's letter:


February 5, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Congratulations on your inauguration for a second term. As your State of the Union address now approaches, I would like to thank you for your efforts to improve our nation's cybersecurity in your first term. From increasing the amount and quality of the data shared among federal agencies and the private sector to elucidating clear policy guidelines for trusted identities in cyberspace and cyberwarfare, your administration has truly made protecting American citizens and American interests a national priority.

Unfortunately, the scope of the challenge has only increased. The same American ingenuity that allows our businesses to be world-leaders in information technology also exposes us to a host of new threats. Defense Secretary Panetta, speaking to the Business Executives for National Security, described the current state of cyber-affairs as "a pre-9/11 moment." Attacks against our defense industrial base, our financial services infrastructure, our free press, and even our own government networks are a daily occurrence. While none have yet caused the destruction on the scope of 9/11, the potential for such a disaster is real, and it is growing.

Combating this threat is a pressing priority. As the co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, I work to inform my colleagues of the inadequacy of existing legislation to secure the domain, and I have appreciated your administration's efforts to highlight the immediacy of our need. I hope that you will take the unique opportunity afforded by your State of the Union address to galvanize both Congress and the public to demand immediate action to secure our country's cyberspace. While I trust that you will use every existing avenue of executive power to improve our capabilities in this realm, our current laws simply do not reflect the amazing technological advances (and the accompanying challenges) that have been made since their enactment.

I was privileged to serve as the Co-chair of the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, which presented you with a series of recommendations when you first took office. Your actions in your first term have made it abundantly clear that you have embraced the need for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, and I look forward to working with you to expand and implement this strategy throughout the coming session.


Jim Langevin

Member of Congress

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