WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday expressed his disappointment at the Senate for failing again to advance the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 to a formal vote.
The motion to hold a vote on the bill was only backed by 51 senators, nine short of the needed votes, due to differences between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on how to protect critical infrastructure networks from cyber attacks.
This was the second time that the bill has failed to advance for a formal vote since August.
"Secretary Panetta was disappointed to learn that the Senate failed to move forward on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would have enhanced our nation's ability to protect itself against cyber threats, which are growing at an alarming rate," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.
The statement warned that if Congress fails to address this security problem urgently, "the consequences could be devastating."
In mid-July, U.S. President Barack Obama strongly urged the Senate to pass the bill to prevent future cyber attacks, which he warned could paralyze the country by disrupting critical infrastructure networks that run the power grids, water plants, and transportation systems.
However, Republican lawmakers were opposed to the bill for fear that the government will only increase costs for companies running the country's critical infrastructure industries without substantially reducing risks of cyber attacks.
"The U.S. defense strategy calls for greater investments in cybersecurity measures, and we will continue to explore ways to defend the nation against cyber threats. New legislation would have enhanced those efforts," the Pentagon statement added.
The Cybersecurity Act that was first proposed in February calls for setting up the National Cybersecurity Council to tackle cyber threats.
U.S. media reported in September that the White House was drafting an executive order to improve the country's digital defense, in case that Congress fails to pass the cybersecurity bill.
Under the order, a special council made up of key government agencies will be set up to identify threats that could compromise critical sectors, while setting voluntary standards to guide companies on how to prevent cyber attacks.