Cybersecurity a Top Priority for the Capitol

‘There is no doubt we are a target,’ says House CAO Philip Kiko

Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa and other officials say that cybersecurity is a top priority at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa and other officials say that cybersecurity is a top priority at the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 9, 2017 at 5:05am

House officers, the Capitol Police, the Library of Congress and the Architect of the Capitol have all made cybersecurity a top priority for fiscal 2018, officials told a House committee at hearings through Tuesday on their Legislative Branch spending bill budget goals. 

“The increased amount of state-sponsored activity waged against the United States underscores the serious threat posed by malicious actors, constantly attempting to exploit IT vulnerabilities,” House Chief Administrative Officer Philip G. Kiko told the House Administration Committee. “There is no doubt that we are a target.”

“We are our worst enemy when it comes to our weakest links, our own employees … are falling victim to phishing expeditions and those types of things,” Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa said. He emphasized a need for continued training on cybersecurity measures.

“Unfortunately, the federal government has become notorious throughout the nation as being the most insecure of most major organizations,” observed committee member Barry Loudermilk, a Georgia Republican.

Physical security

In Washington, Capitol Police and the House sergeant-at-arms want to replace barriers and security kiosks that were first installed after 9/11, and improve security at members’ district offices as protests continue against President Donald Trump’s executive actions and Cabinet nominees.

“We’re monitoring all sources of both classified and unclassified information to determine whether or not a member of Congress or senator is a target of a demonstration activity, is a target of a nefarious effort, a criminal act,” Verderosa said.

“We go out and actively do security awareness briefings. We coordinate trend assessment briefings, for not only staff here on the Hill, but district offices as well,” he added.

The AOC’s ongoing rehabilitation of the Rayburn House Office Building garage and the Cannon House Office Building are on time and on budget. The Capitol Police plan to use these construction phases to enhance security of the parking structures and bring them into a fully secured perimeter.

House Clerk Karen L. Haas raised a budget issue that was not planned for: compliance with a new “comparative print rule” that would require bills to be published along with comparative text showing how current laws would be changed before they may be considered on the House floor.

“We are trying to determine how much of the work can be automated and how much will require legal staff to ensure accuracy,” Haas said.

Views and estimates

The panel approved their “views and estimates” for fiscal 2018 despite not yet having a budget proposal from the Trump administration. The report provides the Budget Committee with information on committees’ legislative agendas and budgetary preferences.

House Administration’s report includes backing for “appropriate funding” to support improved cybersecurity for Legislative Branch entities.

But the major focus of the views and estimates report is reducing the budget needs of the Federal Election Commission by eliminating the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The fund provides taxpayer financing for presidential campaigns through a voluntary election on tax returns to have $3 of each taxpayer’s taxes directed to the fund. The report also advocates the elimination of the Election Assistance Commission.