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FAA reauthorization stresses cybersecurity

The House of Representatives passed a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, putting to rest efforts to privatize the agency and adding some cyber responsibilities to its mission.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) who had been pushing for the privatization of air traffic control functions, sailed through the House by a 393 to 13 margin, marking one step closer to passing the FAA's reauthorization in advance of its September expiration.

The reauthorization contains a number of cyber and tech-related provisions.

The bill mandates the FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell, who currently serves in an acting capacity, develop "an integrated Cyber Testbed" for the research, development and validation of air traffic control modernization programs.

This new test space would provide an environment to test technologies, making sure they're compliant with data security regulations related to the long-running tech project designed to improve air traffic control known as NextGen.

The bill also directs the administrator to assess any technical or cyber risks associated with airline cabins  and to consult with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a threat modeling program to be updated at least once every five years.

It also promotes research on how spectrum can be used in the civil aviation domain to manage traffic and other communications.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) introduced an amendment requiring FAA to begin a study with the National Academy of Sciences on the diversity of the FAA's cybersecurity workforce. It would also require the FAA to submit a report to Congress within six months of the study's completion with the goal of increasing  "the size, quality and diversity of such workforce, including cybersecurity researchers and specialists."

With her amendment, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) is looking to stand up an "Office of Spaceports" to handle spaceport licensing, policymaking and support infrastructure investments for spaceports. It would also require the Government Accountability Office to study and provide recommendations regarding spaceport activities in the U.S.

The bill awaits action in the Senate.   

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