Senate Democrat introduces legislation to protect US against crippling cyberattack

Senate Democrat introduces legislation to protect US against crippling cyberattack
© Greg Nash

Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersTop Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-Mich.) on Friday introduced two bills designed to protect and defend the United States in the event of a nationwide cyberattack that impacts critical systems and cripples the economy.

The Continuity of Economy Act would require the president to develop a plan to enable the economy and critical services to continue functioning in the wake of a debilitating cyberattack. 

The second bill, the National Guard Cyber Interoperability Act, would funnel more resources to the National Guard to enable them to provide support to states to defend against and respond to cyber incidents. 

ADVERTISEMENT

That bill would also help address the wave of ransomware attacks state and localities have seen over the past year, with cities including New Orleans and Baltimore seeing their networks negatively impacted for weeks. 

Peters, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the bills would “help prepare our country to defend against and recover from attacks on our critical infrastructure,” such as health care or financial organizations, that could “cause severe disruption to our daily lives.”

“Cyberattacks are one of the greatest threats to our national security and the United States is not sufficiently prepared to defend itself in cyberspace or recover from a significant cyber disruption,” Peters said. “Our adversaries like China, Russia and Iran are constantly probing our critical infrastructure and government systems to identify weaknesses that could be exploited in the event of a conflict.”

The bills were introduced months after the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) — a congressionally created group made up of members of Congress, federal officials and industry leaders — released a report calling for a multitude of actions to defend the nation against a crippling cyberattack. 

One recommendation was for the federal government to prepare continuity plans in the event of a hard-hitting cyberattack, with the bills introduced Friday a direct result of this recommendation. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Senate Armed Services Committee included nearly a dozen measures stemming from the CSC’s report in the panel’s draft of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was approved by the committee on Thursday.

The proposed measures include requiring the National Guard to review its response to cyberattacks, boosting cyber defense for nuclear command and control systems and assessing the “feasibility” of establishing a national cyber director to lead the federal government’s cybersecurity operations. 

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  MORE (R-Wis.) said last month that he was working to get a provision formally establishing a national cyber director included in the NDAA, saying there was a “need to put someone in charge” of cybersecurity issues at the federal level.