President Obama has not yet reviwed a draft of a proposed executive order that would create a process to develop, in collaboration with industry, IT security best practices that the mostly private owners of the nation's critical infrastructure could voluntarily adopt.
"There is a draft, it has been circulated, but the president has not had the opportunity to review it or make a final decision about it," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Oct. 25.
The administration raised the possibility of issuing an executive order [see White House: No Rush on Executive Order] after the Senate failed to vote in August on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which includes provisions to establish IT security best practices that could be voluntarily implemented by industry [see Senate Votes to Block Cybersecurity Act Action].
"Given the severity and urgency of the situation, we can't simply wait if Congress cannot act," Napolitano said at a symposium on building a cybersecurity work force through diversity, sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
After the Senate's failure to act, several sponsors of the Cybersecurity Act had called on Obama to issue the executive order [see Lieberman's Last Harrah on Cybersecurity]. But one of them, Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and other Republicans who oppose the measure, cautioned Obama against issuing it [see GOP Senators Warn Obama on Executive Order].
Napolitano noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he would again bring up the cybersecurity legislation after Congress returns Nov. 13 [see Senate to Reconsider IT Security Bill], but suggested supporters of the bill might not have enough votes to break the filibuster that's preventing the vote.
"They [senators] got a long list of things that need to be dealt with," Napolitano said, referring to other issues that are perceived to be more pressing, including rescinding severe, automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration. "The ideal way to go is through Congress, but if Congress cannot act, then the executive branch is going to have to [issue the order]."
Meanwhile, Napolitano said the administration is reaching out to the private sector and other stakeholders to fine tune the executive order should the administration ultimately decide to issue it.