Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding cyber security. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Last week General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, was asked to rate how prepared America is to face a cyber terrorist attack on a scale of 1 to 10.
This is what he said: “From my perspective I’d say around a three.”
Keep in mind, one is totally unprepared and 10 is totally prepared.
One of the country’s top national security experts gave us a three out of 10 – a failing grade by any standard.
He went on to say the type of cyber attacks that could black out the United States for weeks or months are up seventeen-fold in the last three years.
The nation’s top security experts have said a “cyber 9-11” is imminent.
And they say frailties in our defenses again these attacks are the most urgent threat to national security.
So it was with disappointment that I filed cloture last night on legislation to reinforce our defenses against malicious hackers.
National security experts have been plain about the urgent need to act. They say the question is not whether to act, but whether we will act in time.
A bipartisan group of Senators has worked for three years to craft the legislation before this body.
Still, I was pleased to hear last week that many of my colleagues were working on thoughtful amendments to improve and strengthen this measure.
Senators on both sides have worked hard to address every concern raised by the private sector about this legislation.
I expected a healthy debate on this issue. I also expected to processes many relevant amendments.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for a few of my Republican colleagues.
Instead of substantive amendments that deal with our nation’s cyber security, they are insisting on political show votes.
I had thought my Republican colleagues were taking this process seriously.
After all, the threat is clear.
And protecting the computer networks that control our electric grid, water supply and financial system should be above political wrangling.
So I was doubly disappointed to watch a bipartisan process derailed by ideological attacks on women’s right to health care.
As 47 million American women were set to gain access to preventive services with no out-of-pocket cost, Republicans insisted once again on a vote to repeal those benefits.
They want to roll back the clock to the days when insurance companies could discriminate against women – charging them more just because they’re women.
And to take matters worse, they are willing to kill a bill that would protect our nation from cyber terrorism in the process.
This isn’t a new tactic. You may remember how Republicans stalled the transportation bill – and put 3 million jobs at risk – as part of their attack on women’s access to contraception.
Still, I admit I was surprised that Senator McConnell would so brazenly drag partisan politics into the debate over a measure crucial to national security.
Just yesterday Senator McConnell and I received a letter from General Alexander of the NSA urging us to move quickly. This is what he wrote:
“The cyber threat facing the nation is real and demands immediate action. The time to act is now; we simply cannot afford further delay… We need to move forward on comprehensive legislation now. I urge you to work together to get it passed.”
I share General Alexander’s concern.
I agree the Senate should work together to pass this bipartisan legislation without further delay.