WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bipartisan bill to support the National Guard’s role in helping state and local governments improve their cybersecurity infrastructure. The bill was initially introduced last year, and the Senators are reintroducing it this year in the wake of the SolarWinds attack and continued cyberattacks connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, the National Guard is limited in how it can support state efforts to improve their cyber defenses, and the Senators’ bill makes clear that states are authorized to use the National Guard to provide cyber support services to states and localities.
“We have seen unprecedented cyberattacks throughout the country this past year – most notably the SolarWinds attack, but also cyberattacks on schools, hospitals, and state and local governments amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Hassan. “These attacks can be just as devastating as emergencies that the National Guard already provides assistance with, which is why Senator Cornyn and I are working together across the aisle to ensure that states are able to utilize the impressive expertise that our National Guard members have in order to strengthen state and local cyber resiliency.”
“The National Guard fights to protect Americans from cybersecurity threats every day, and it is essential that they have the authority to provide support to state agencies and local governments working to keep us safe online,” said Senator Cornyn. “By ensuring the National Guard is able to work with states and localities to improve their cyber infrastructure, we can make sure the U.S. stays one step ahead of bad actors.”
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. The most recent National Defense Authorization Act included a measure led by Senators Hassan and Cornyn to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position in every state.
At a HSGAC hearing last year, Senator Hassan discussed the importance of supporting the National Guard’s role in state and local cybersecurity efforts with the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. 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, and was briefed by officials on last year’s exercise. After ransomware attacks hit Strafford County and Sunapee School District in New Hampshire, Senator Hassan met with officials to discuss what more the federal government can do to help protect against these attacks.