Congress has passed four bills in recent days to shore up U.S. defenses against cyber attacks. The flurry of activity came as lawmakers rushed to complete their legislative business for the year.

“While our work in this area is far from finished, these bills are an important step in our effort to modernize our nation’s cybersecurity programs and help the public and private sectors work together to tackle cyber threats more effectively in the future,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

One bill, the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2014 (S. 2521), would establish real-time, automated monitoring of federal computer networks, lessen the amount of paperwork required in security review processes, and clarify the role of agencies charged with securing federal computer networks.

“The bill is more than overdue: cyber attacks reported by federal agencies have increased by nearly 680 percent over the past six years,” said Carper, citing a Government Accountability Office study.

A second bill, the Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act of 2013 (S. 1691), contains language that would make it easier for the Department of Homeland Security to hire and retain cybersecurity experts, who are in high demand across government and the private sector. The measure would allow DHS to hire at the same speed and with comparable salaries to the Department of Defense.

A third bill, the National Cybersecurity Protection Act of 2014 (S. 2519), would codify the role of the DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in sharing cybersecurity information with the private sector and federal agencies. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said “this bill sets the stage for future legislation for cybersecurity information sharing that includes liability protections for the private sector.”

A fourth bill, the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act (H.R. 2952), would require DHS to assess its cybersecurity workforce and develop a strategy to enhance its ability to protect the United States against cyber attacks.

All four bills now head to President Obama to be signed into law.

VetSuccess Program Launched

Lawmakers were not the only ones in Washington, D.C., who were taking action on cybersecurity. At a Dec. 11 event on Capitol Hill, the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the SANS Institute jointly launched VetSuccess, a program to help U.S. military veterans find jobs in cybersecurity.

The pilot phase of VetSuccess will provide scholarships to 12 Air Force veterans to receive training and certifications in network intrusion detection, incident handling and cybersecurity foundations. Scholarship recipients will also be matched with cybersecurity jobs.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.