Senator Hassan Questions Homeland Security Secretary Nominee on Terrorism and Cybersecurity Threats

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today participated in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee nomination hearing for Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Secretary for Homeland Security. Senator Hassan focused her questioning on addressing terrorist threats and strengthening federal, state, and local cybersecurity.

Watch Senator Hassan’s questioning here.

Foreign and Domestic Terrorism

Senator Hassan first asked Mayorkas about addressing terrorist threats. “Despite the fact that the threat of terrorism has evolved and changed in the nearly 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, no comprehensive federal review of terrorism information sharing has occurred to keep pace with the evolution of these threats,” said Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan raised the bipartisan bill she introduced to establish a federal interagency commission to review both domestic and international terrorism information sharing.

Mayorkas discussed the importance of strengthening state and local information sharing, stating, “I think that we can do a lot better in the distribution of that information to our brave first responders in local communities throughout our country, and I would look forward to working with you and this committee to make sure that the interagency task force of which you speak is built and its responsibilities are executed most effectively.”

Federal, State, and Local Cybersecurity

Senator Hassan discussed the recent unprecedented cyberattack, stating, “The SolarWinds cyberattack revealed vulnerabilities across the government in the systems designed to prevent such a far-reaching attack.” Senator Hassan asked Mayorkas about the performance of current cybersecurity programs, including the Einstein program and the Continuing Diagnostics and Mitigation program, and potential changes to them. Mayorkas committed to reviewing both programs.

Senator Hassan and Mayorkas also discussed the importance of additional support for state and local cybersecurity, with Senator Hassan citing testimony from the hearing that she co-led. Witnesses from the hearing included Denis Goulet, the Commissioner of New Hampshire’s Department of Information Technology. “Commissioner Goulet implored Congress to authorize a stand-alone federal cybersecurity grant program that would help state and local entities afford to take the steps that they need to strengthen their information technology systems,” said Senator Hassan to Mayorkas.

Mayorkas discussed the need to further protect against cyber threats to state and local entities. He expressed openness to working with Senator Hassan on a potential grant program.