Inside the Reporter’s Notebook – Fears rise over little-known cyber bill provision

The Senate's Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act would give DHS emergency powers during a cyber attack on federal or contractor networks holding federal data....


Inside the Reporter’s Notebook is a biweekly dispatch of news and information you may have missed or that slipped through the cracks at conferences, hearings and other events. This is not a column or commentary – it’s news tidbits, strongly-sourced buzz, and other items of interest that have happened or are happening in the federal IT and acquisition communities.

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Fears rise over little-known cyber bill provision

Let’s get beyond the back-slapping and glad-handing over the fact that Senate lawmakers introduced and tucked much needed legislation to protect federal networks into the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.

There is one provision in the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act that is scaring both industry and government alike.

And yes, scaring is probably the best word here — not worrying or concerning, but actually putting fear into their minds.

Without a doubt there is a lot of positive requirements in the provision, which Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) are sponsoring and added to CISA.

But under Section 209, lawmakers would give the Homeland Security Department Secretary the power to issue an emergency directive when there is a “substantial threat” to the information security of an agency and take “any lawful action with respect to the operation of the information system, including such systems owned or operated by another entity on behalf of an agency, that collects, processes, stores, transmits, disseminates, or otherwise maintains agency information, for the purpose of protecting the information system from, or mitigating, an information security threat.”

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DHS meets digital services deadline as hope for governmentwide funding dwindles

Back in December, the Office of Management and Budget gave agencies an Oct. 1 deadline to set up digital services teams as part of the IT budget passback.

So here we are, 10 months after the instructions, and several agencies have met the goal, including most recently the Homeland Security Department.

DHS joins the departments of Veterans Affairs, Commerce and Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration.

DHS recently hired Eric Hysen as its director of its digital services team. Hysen had been working at DHS for the last few months as part of a team provided to the agency by OMB’s U.S. Digital Services Office.

“For the past year, I’ve been working with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the Department of Homeland Security, to modernize our country’s immigration system,” Hysen wrote in a blog post. “We’ll be taking the model the U.S. Digital Service has been using for the past year and making it a core part of how DHS does business. We’ll be expanding our work to modernize the immigration system as well as taking on new challenges across DHS’s critical missions — everything from facilitating international trade to responding to disasters to improving the federal government’s information security practices.”

Hysen invited others to join him at DHS to create the digital team.

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DoD’s concerns about industry consolidation may hold water for all of government

Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, may be rightly concerned about the rate of mergers and acquisitions happening in the federal market.

Kendall issued a statement Sept. 30 after Lockheed Martin’s plan to buy Sikorsky cleared the Justice Department’s antitrust process about the potential impact of mergers and acquisitions on the defense industrial base (DIB).

“Since 2011, DoD’s policy has been that it would not look favorably on mergers of top tier defense firms. Lockheed’s acquisition of Sikorsky does not constitute a merger of two top tier defense firms and it does not violate that policy. However, this acquisition does result in a further reduction in the number of weapon system prime contractors in the defense industrial base,” Kendall said in an emailed statement. “Over the past few decades, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of weapon system prime contractors producing major defense programs for the DoD. This transaction is the most significant change at the weapon system prime level since the large scale consolidation that followed the end of the cold war. This acquisition moves a high percentage of the market share for an entire line of products — military helicopters — into the largest defense prime contractor, a contractor that already holds a dominant position in high performance aircraft due to the F-35 winner take all approach adopted over a decade ago. Mergers such as this, combined with significant financial resources of the largest defense companies, strategically position the acquiring companies to dominate large parts of the defense industry.”

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