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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, first, let me thank the Senator from Texas for reserving some time for me while I was at a briefing and on my way to the floor. I will attempt to be very quick because I know our colleagues are eager to vote on this important issue. And, Mr. President, that is my point. This is a critically important issue. How many more warnings do we need to hear from the experts that we are extremely vulnerable to a cyber security attack? Cyber attacks are happening every day.
Just recently there was an attack on several of our financial institutions. According to press reports, it was launched by Iranian sources. We know that Iran, Russia, and China are extremely active in probing our cyber systems, including those that control our critical infrastructure--not only our financial systems, our transportation systems, our water treatment plants, but also our electric grid.
Recently we have seen what Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm, has done to States--so many States--destroying lives and property and leaving people without power for days on end. Well, multiply that many times. If it were a deliberate cyber attack that knocked out the electric grid along the entire east coast, that is what we are talking about. That is the kind of risk that calls us to act.
We have heard from the experts over and over again that this vulnerability is huge and escalating. We know that the number of cyber attacks that have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security has increased by 200 percent in just the last year. And those are just the attacks that have been reported. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Undoubtedly, there are many more on our critical infrastructure that have not been reported. We know there have been attempts to probe the security of the computer systems that run some of our natural gas pipelines.
This problem is very real, and it is not only a threat to our national and homeland security, it is also a threat to the economic prosperity of this country. How many more thefts of research and development, of intellectual property of businesses right here in our country that are providing good jobs for Americans do we need to endure before we act to secure our cyber systems?
I have worked on the cyber security bill for years with my friend, colleague, and chairman, Joe Lieberman. We have held countless hearings. We have marked up a previous bill. It is so ironic that we are being criticized for not doing yet another markup on this bill when all of the changes reflect our attempts to address the criticisms of the opponents of this bill. We made a huge change by making this bill voluntary rather than mandatory and by providing incentives such as liability protections for businesses that voluntarily agree to adopt cyber standards. We have created a system where there would be a cooperative process between the public and the private sectors to share information and to develop the best practices so that information can be shared.
In all the time I have worked on homeland security issues, I cannot think of another threat where our vulnerability is greater and where we have failed to act and have done less.
This is not a Republican or a Democratic or an Independent issue. The experts, regardless of their political leanings, from the Bush administration to the current administration have urged us to act, have pleaded with us to act.
General Alexander, the nonpartisan general who is the head of Cyber Command and the head of the National Security Agency, has urged this Congress over and over again to give this administration, to give our country the tools it needs to protect critical infrastructure and to help safeguard our economic edge.
I urge our colleagues to listen to the wisdom of former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former NSA chief GEN Michael Hayden from the previous administration, from President Bush's administration. They wrote the following:
We carry the burden of knowing that 9/11 might have been averted with the intelligence that existed at the time. We do not want to be in the same position again when ``cyber 9/11'' hits--it is not a question of ``whether'' this will happen; it is a question of ``when.''
This time all the dots have been connected. This time we know cyber attacks are occurring each and every day. This time the warnings are loud and clear. How can we ignore these dire warnings? How? How can we fail to act on the cyber security bill, especially since the majority leader has indicated he is willing to allow for amendments, as he should, to make this process fair. Germane amendments would be allowed.
I urge our colleagues to heed the warnings from the experts and to vote for cloture on the cyber security bill so we can proceed to its consideration. I do not want to be here 1 year from now saying, why did we not act? Why did we not listen to the cyber experts from the Bush administration, from the Obama administration, from GEN Keith Alexander, the premier expert in our government.
I yield the floor.
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