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Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee - Cybersecurity Act and the Drought Information Act


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, delivered the following prepared remarks at today's Executive Session:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you noted, we have a number of important measures on the agenda today. Chief among them is our bill to strengthen cybersecurity, S.1353, the Cybersecurity Act of 2013.

As I mentioned at our hearing on this legislation last week, I want to recognize your steadfast leadership on this issue, which is vital to our national and economic security. I also want to thank you and your staff for the way you have worked with me and my staff on this effort since the beginning of my tenure as Ranking Member.

Our bill updates the existing statutory authority of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce, to ensure the agency will, on an ongoing basis, facilitate and support the development of a voluntary, industry-led set of standards and best practices to reduce cyber risks to critical infrastructure.

Our bill also includes needed titles to improve research and development, strengthen workforce development and education, and increase public awareness and preparedness.

I am pleased that our offices worked with industry, fellow Senate colleagues, and other stakeholders to solicit and incorporate their feedback in crafting this legislation.

Our outreach has been affirmed by numerous letters and statements of support, from companies and groups representing the telecommunications sector, the financial sector, the technology sector, the electric sector, and cross-sector organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

So far, we have received 18 letters and statements of support from key stakeholders. Several individual letters represent many organizations -- such as the one from the financial sector, which includes eleven signatory organizations, and the electric sector, which includes thirteen organizations ranging from public to private, and national to rural companies, as well as municipal organizations.

Mr. Chairman, at this time, I would ask that these statements and letters of support be included in the record of today's session, as well as the record of last week's hearing.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to our work on the cybersecurity bill, I am glad that we have been able to work together to make progress on a number of other bills, including a number that I know were important to Senator Inouye and are being advanced in his honor today.

I am also pleased to see S. 376, the Drought Information Act of 2013, of which I am a cosponsor, move forward.

Drought can be a perennial challenge for the residents of my state and ensuring there are adequate monitoring and forecasting capabilities is critical to ensuring the farmers and ranchers in South Dakota can be prepared. I appreciate the work of Senators Pryor and Moran, who introduced this bill, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see the bill pass the full Senate.

I am similarly pleased that Senator Klobuchar's resolution, which I and several of our Committee colleagues have cosponsored, on the topic of telephone service in rural areas is moving forward today. In addition, advancement of the bipartisan Small Airplane Revitalization Act is a positive step for innovation and competitiveness in our aviation manufacturing sector.

Mr. Chairman, as is often the case, we are also advancing some bills today that will require additional modification before the full Senate considers them.

For example, I support moving forward with S. 921, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013, recognizing there are some outstanding issues that need to be resolved before the bill receives floor consideration.

Other bills, like S.1317, the NASA reauthorization, will likely need even more work before they reflect the kind of consensus that has characterized our Committee's enacted legislation. With additional effort, however, I am hopeful that we can get there in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. Chairman, in addition to legislation, the Committee is poised to approve several nominations today, these include the nomination of Dr. Mark Schaefer to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere; the nominations of Board Members for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Amtrak; and several promotions within the U.S. Coast Guard. These nominations are noncontroversial and I expect we will approve them en bloc shortly.

We are also considering today the nomination of Thomas Wheeler to be the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

As we have discussed, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your desire to see the Committee take action on this nomination. At the same time, I think the Committee's precedent suggests that we would be better served by pairing Mr. Wheeler with the anticipated nominee for the Republican vacancy on the FCC -- a nomination we hope to receive from the White House very soon.

In the past, such nominees have frequently -- almost always -- been paired for Committee consideration. And, the occasional delays in Committee action caused by such pairings have often been offset by speedy confirmation by the full Senate.

For example, although former Chairman Genachowski was nominated two-and-a-half months before Commissioner McDowell was re-nominated, they were reported by the Committee on the same day, and confirmed by the full Senate one week later.

In the case of Mr. Wheeler, although I intend to support his nomination in Committee, I fully expect that floor consideration will await this Committee's action on the Republican nominee pending at the White House.

Notwithstanding my reservations about moving forward on Mr. Wheeler at this time, Mr. Chairman, I want to reiterate my appreciation for your willingness to confer with me throughout the development of today's agenda and I look forward to other productive markups later this year and next.

Among other things, I am hoping that our collaboration on cybersecurity legislation may set a precedent for another issue that has proved similarly challenging in the past: data breach legislation. I am a cosponsor of a bill with Senators Toomey and King, and I know that you have cosponsored such legislation in the past. I think we should consider putting this issue near the top of our "to do" list.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, although I am reluctant to suggest items for other committees' "to do" lists, I cannot close without returning to the topic of cybersecurity and noting our shared hope that our colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee will be successful in crafting bipartisan, consensus legislation to promote robust sharing of cyber threat information, with strong liability protections. We also hope that the Senate Homeland Security Committee can work in a similarly bipartisan fashion to make needed improvements to the Federal Information Security Management Act.

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