Retired General Keith Alexander told a group of Federal government and industry experts that the U.S. must do more to protect the Internet and boost cybersecurity.

“We are the nation that created the Internet. We ought to be the first to secure it,” Alexander said at the Splunk GovSummitt in downtown Washington on Thursday.

Alexander, who led the National Security Agency and now serves as president IronNet CyberSecurity, seemed to support passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA), but didn’t mention the controversial bill by name.

“We have to…allow industry and government to work together seamlessly,” Alexander said.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on CISA next week.

The House has passed its own version of the bill in April, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, expressed skepticism over the Senate version of CISA.

“My concern with the Senate bill is that it weakens the role of (the Department of Homeland Security) and that it elevates the role of the IC, the intelligence community, as the storefront, rather than the civilian agencies…being the storefront,” McCaul said this week at the 2015 Government Cybersecurity Forum.

“I’m very concerned that an NSA-centric, rather than a DHS-centric bill, will have little or no hope of passing the House,” he said.

If the Senate version of CISA passes next week, it will have to be reconciled with the House version.

The cadence of cyber attacks against public and private sector networks – by Russia, China, North Korea, and potentially other antagonists – makes passage of CISA more important than ever, Alexander said.

Cybersecurity is a “team sport,” and the law will make it easier for agencies and companies to pool resources and fight back, he said.

Responding to skeptics of CISA who question the legislation’s impact on civil liberties, the general said the law will not harm the public’s privacy rights.

“If we do our jobs and do it right… we can tend to this data, and protect it, and protect our people’s and our nation’s civil liberties and privacy and protect our networks,” he said.

McCaul said the House version of CISA threads “the needle between privacy and security,” but the Senate version needs work.

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MeriTalk Staff