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CONGRESSMAN SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R-NY)

OPENING STATEMENT FOR HEARING ON GILMORE COMMISSION

October 17, 2001

 

I want to welcome everyone here today for our second hearing on cyber security. It may be difficult, or even seem odd, to concentrate on cybersecurity while the Congress itself seems to be the victim of a biological attack. Yet, in some ways, recent events, point up more than ever the need to worry about the security of our computer networks.

What the recent anthrax attacks and the attacks of September 11 have in common is that they turn our own basic systems of daily connections against us – in those cases, our postal system and our transportation system. Turning our computer systems against us would seem to be a logical extension of that mode of operation. And, as we noted last week, we are more and more reliant on those computer networks.

Last week’s hearing provided a sober report on the state of our vulnerability to computer attacks. Our witnesses made four primary points:

        The United States has a woefully inadequate investment in computer security;

        Few top researchers have been drawn into the field of computer security, which has remained essentially unchanged in its (failed) approaches since its inception;

 

        The federal government has no agency that is focused on, and responsible for ensuring that the necessary research and implementation are undertaken to improve computer security; and

 

        Market forces have given most in private industry little incentive to invest in computer security even as their reliance on the Internet grows.

 

We are now starting to work on legislation to address those shortcomings.

 

Today, we will continue our investigation into computer security. And once again we will focus on the area where this Committee has special expertise and responsibility – the longer-range planning that will ensure that the vulnerabilities we have today do not exist tomorrow.

We will hear from Governor Gilmore, who will outline the recommendations in the Gilmore Commission’s upcoming report on cybersecurity. I will be particularly interested to hear the recommendations relating to research and development, and standards – the issues on which this Committee has focused. And the standards discussion should help set up a hearing we will have in two weeks on the problems emergency personnel have in communicating with each other because of incompatible equipment.

I have no doubt that Governor Gilmore’s recommendations will be thought- provoking because the Commission’s previous reports have been prescient. They outlined the terrorist threat and the needed preparations to combat it, while most of us were still insulated by our complacency. That complacency has now vanished.

I must add, though, that complacency must not be replaced with panic. As we move ahead, we must protect our basic American values, our sense of openness, our faith that the normal machinery of government has the ability to weather this storm as it has so many others.

We should view with skepticism proposals that would turn over our decision-making to new, insular technocracies.

 

Instead, we should acknowledge that the federal government has a key, active role to play in ensuring that the national interest and the public interest take precedent at a time when narrower interests and ideologies can stand in the way of needed steps to ensure our safety.

I welcome Governor Gilmore and I look forward to his testimony.




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