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Cybersecurity Executive Order Almost Ready

The president will soon review an order that would create a voluntary information sharing program, says Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The heavily rumored executive order on cybersecurity is “close to completion,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Sept. 19, reported The order, which is intended to provide some protection to the infrastructure that would have been afforded by several failed legislative attempts, is not a replacement for further legislation and Congress will still need to act, Napolitano said.

President Barack Obama has not yet reviewed the order, but it is being examined at the “highest levels” she said. Rumor has it that if the president decides to sign the order, it will establish a voluntary program of information sharing for critical infrastructure operators, such as power plants, dams or electrical grids.

“As much as we are doing, we must do even more,” Napolitano said in a prepared testimony. “All sides agree that federal and private networks must be better protected, and information about cybersecurity threats must be shared more easily while ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected through a customized framework of information-handling policies and oversight.”

Talk of an executive order began after Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blocked the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 in early August. Shortly after the bill failed to pass, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called Senate Republican opposition to the legislation “a profound disappointment” and blamed “the politics of obstructionism, driven by special interest groups seeking to avoid accountability.”

Well publicized supporters of a presidential executive order on cybersecurity over the past several weeks have included U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Obama’s counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. Others have opposed an executive order, calling exclusively for more work on a bipartisan legislative solution. James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the rumored voluntary program outlined by Obama's executive order pointless. "The White House needs to step back and say, 'Does this make a meaningful contribution in the near term?' Find me a company that says, 'I'm going to voluntarily agree to be regulated by DHS.' Nobody is going to volunteer to have DHS regulate them."

As of Sept. 15, Obama had signed 138 executive orders, according to a blog about the president.