House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., introduced the bill following two post-Sept. 11 Science Committee hearings on the emerging cyber-terrorist threat and the lack of a coordinated U.S. response.
The Senate is currently drafting similar legislation with the only difference possibly being the actual level of funding.
Supporters of the legislation contend that available technologies provide inadequate protection, yet relatively little research and development is being conducted to develop new approaches to protecting computer systems and networks. A government study last fall gave failing marks to most federal agencies' systems.
H.R. 3394 -- Cyber Security Research and Development Act -- authorizes the National Science Foundation to establish new Internet security research centers and to fund fellowships and college grants supporting advanced cyber security.
Granting an initial expenditure of $35 million in 2003, the bill also authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create partnership grants between industry and academic researchers and to fund a program to bring researchers from other fields into computer security research.
"I am convinced that, over time, H.R. 3394 will come to be seen as a fundamental turning point in the nation's approach to cybersecurity. This bill is the equivalent of legislation the Congress passed in the wake of the Sputnik launch in the late 1950s," said Boehlert.
"You'll recall that the unexpected Soviet launch of the Sputnik forced us to focus on the nation's deficiencies in science, and led us to pass path-breaking -- and it turned out, overwhelmingly effective -- legislation to improve the nation's ability to conduct research and educate students."
Added Boehlert, "Similarly, the attacks of Sep. 11 have turned our attention to the nation's weaknesses, and again we find that our capacity to conduct research and to educate will have to be enhanced if we are to counter our foes over the long run."