House Republican introduces legislation to strengthen federal cybersecurity

Greg Nash

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Monday introduced three pieces of legislation designed to improve cybersecurity at the national level, particularly within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

The proposed bills would help bolster leadership at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), one of the key federal agencies involved in addressing cybersecurity threats. 

The CISA Director and Assistant Directors Act would elevate the position of CISA director and give the job a five-year term, along with reclassifying assistant director positions. 

A second bill would require CISA to conduct a comprehensive review of its operations to help improve coordination and transparency, and a third would establish a talent exchange program between CISA and the private sector. 

Katko, who serves as ranking member of the House Homeland Security cybersecurity subcommittee, said in a statement that “the time for our nation to take cybersecurity seriously is far overdue,” pointing to increased cyberattacks while the nation seeks to beat back the coronavirus.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, American businesses and governments, as well as individuals working from home, have experienced a significant uptick in cyberattacks,” he said. “As a nation, it’s clear we must do better to prepare for and respond to these attacks.” 

Katko noted that all three bills were introduced following the publication of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s report in March. The group was created by Congress and charged with laying out recommendations for defending the nation against cyber threats. 

Another recommendation from the group, which is made up of members of Congress, federal officials and industry leaders, was the establishment of a national cybersecurity director.

Katko joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing legislation last month to establish this position, and that bill is set to be the focus of a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing later this week. 

Also stemming from the report is legislation introduced in the Senate to create a plan for the economy to keep functioning in the event of a crippling cyberattack and to bolster cybersecurity at the state level. 

Concerns around cybersecurity protections have increased during the pandemic, as more Americans have moved online and malicious cyber incidents have spiked, particularly those focused on health care and research groups involved in studying COVID-19. 

“In today’s digital and everchanging world, we must act now to ensure our nation is protected,” Katko said Monday. 

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