Senators Hassan, Cornyn Also Introduce Bipartisan Amendment to Support National Guard’s Role in Strengthening State Government’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Rob Portman (R-OH) filed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 to require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position in every state. Each state would have its own federally funded Cybersecurity Coordinator, who would be responsible for helping to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats by working with federal, state, and local governments as well as schools, hospitals, and other entities. This amendment mirrors the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act that the Senators introduced earlier this year, and in March, the Homeland Security Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to approve this legislation.
Senators Hassan and Cornyn also introduced a bipartisan amendment to the NDAA to support the National Guard’s role in helping state and local governments improve their cybersecurity infrastructure. Right now, the National Guard is limited in how it can support state efforts to improve their cyber defenses, and the Senators’ amendment would make clear that the National Guard is authorized to provide cyber support services to states and localities.
“Cyberattacks can cause enormous disruption at any time, but they can be particularly devastating during a public health crisis," said Senator Hassan. "We’ve seen an increase in cyberattacks on hospital systems amid the pandemic, and in my state of New Hampshire, a county experienced an attack last year on their computer system, which includes the local nursing home. The federal government needs to do more to strengthen cybersecurity preparedness in communities across the country, and both of these bipartisan amendments would help do so."
“The United States faces a barrage of cyber threats every day, and state and local governments have a role to play in keeping our infrastructure secure,” said Senator Cornyn. “Having one point of contact in each state working to coordinate their response to cybersecurity breaches will ensure everyone is on the same page during a crisis.”
“We live in an increasingly interconnected society, and state and local governments need clear lines of communication and an understanding of what federal resources are available to protect them from ever-evolving cyber threats,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Bad actors will always target the path of least resistance – which is why we must boost cyber-security at all levels of government. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort, which will ensure states can better recognize potential threats and have access to more resources to respond to cyber-attacks.”
“Cybersecurity for state and local governments is just as important as federal cybersecurity, and frequently, they lack the resources, technical know-how, and situational awareness to secure their systems, or respond in the event of an attack,” said Senator Portman. “I’m glad to join my bipartisan colleagues in introducing an amendment to the NDAA that would create a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position to facilitate the cybersecurity relationship between the federal government and state and local governments. This amendment is based on our bipartisan bill, the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act and I urge all my colleagues to join us in supporting it.”
Senator Hassan has prioritized efforts to address state and local cybersecurity threats as a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. At a HSGAC hearing earlier this year, Senator Hassan discussed the importance of supporting the National Guard’s role in state and local cybersecurity efforts with the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which recently released its comprehensive report on cyber deterrence. Last August, Senator Hassan joined members of the New Hampshire National Guard and local, state, and federal officials for Cyber Yankee 2019, a training exercise to prepare for and prevent cyberattacks. After ransomware attacks hit Strafford County and Sunapee School District in New Hampshire last year, Senator Hassan met with officials to discuss what more the federal government can do to help protect against these attacks.