Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Gary Peters, D-Mich., introduced legislation on Jan. 16 that directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator program.

As part of the proposed program, which would be housed within DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, each state would have a Federally funded Cybersecurity Coordinator who would be tasked with helping to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats. To do so, the State Coordinators would facilitate coordination between Federal, state, and local governments as well as schools, hospitals, and other entities as needed.

“Cyberattacks can be devastating for communities across our country, from ransomware attacks that can block access to school or medical records to cyberattacks that can shut down electrical grids or banking services,” said Sen. Hassan. “[T]he Federal government needs to do more to ensure that state and local entities have the resources and training that they need to prevent and respond to cyberattacks. The bipartisan bill I introduced would take a big step forward in improving communication between the Federal government, states, and localities, as well as strengthening cybersecurity preparedness in communities across the country.”

While cybersecurity has long been a focus for both the Federal government and state and local governments; however, state and local governments typically lack the funds needed to adequately protect themselves against 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,” Sen. Portman said. “[The bill] would help bolster state and local governments’ cybersecurity by facilitating their relationship with the Federal government to ensure they know what preventative resources are available to them as well as who to turn to if an attack occurs.”

Under the bill, the State Coordinators would have four primary responsibilities:

  • “Improve coordination within Federal entities and between Federal and non-Federal entities, including state and local governments and other organizations;
  • Support preparation, response, and remediation efforts relating to cybersecurity risks and incidents, including ransomware;
  • Facilitate the sharing of cyber threat information;
  • Raise awareness of financial, technical, and operational resources that the Federal government offers to non-Federal entities to help prevent cyber threats.”

“With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated and formidable every day, it’s vital that states have a point person responsible for coordinating cybersecurity efforts with experts in the Federal government,” said Sen. Peters, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “These coordinators would help states better understand relevant threats, access Federal cybersecurity resources and respond to potential attacks. I’m proud to co-sponsor this commonsense, bipartisan legislation, which will help to ensure that all levels of government are prepared to combat cybercriminals and protect their networks.”

Read More About
More Topics
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.