Bill Paves the Way for NIST Restructuring

Information Security
Bill Paves Way for NIST Restructuring

By Teri Robinson

Proposed restructuring of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) promises to have a strong impact on the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts.
    
The House of Representatives in the spring signed off on The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act proposes to restructure NIST, reducing its number of laboratories from 10 to six. The Information Technology Laboratory would remain virtually the same, continuing to develop standards and measurements that ensure interoperability and security among other things. The lab’s structure will also serve as a blueprint for other NIST labs.

“This bill authorizes a lab structure of six operating units to promote efficiency and a cross-disciplinary culture at NIST,” said Rep. David Wu, (D-Ore.), sponsor of the NIST portion of the bill. He noted that the current NIST structure “no longer reflects today’s technology sectors or the inherent and increasing multi-disciplinary nature of technology.”

The NIST provision in the Act intends to empower the standards body. If the legislation is approved by the Senate, NIST Director Patrick Gallagher will be elevated to undersecretary for standards and technology within the Department of Commerce, a move that Wu said would “help inject NIST expertise into the administration’s discussions on innovation, standards and support for high-tech growth.”

In fact, Gallagher would be tapped to help develop and reach international technical standards objectives. The Act also makes it clear that business and industry are not required to employ NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines.

The bill has taken a long route through Congress, rejected in two previous House votes as being too expensive and containing controversial measures. Efforts to reject the bill were criticized by lawmakers with Bart Gordon, chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, noting that at least one motion was “about gutting funding for our science agencies.”

Lawmakers reworked the legislation to allow their peers to vote on some measures separately and the bill was approved by a healthy margin.