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Delaware Gov Activates National Guard Cybersecurity Squad to Support 2020 Election

Governor John Carney recently activated Delaware’s National Guard 166th special Cyberspace Operations Squadron to help protect the state’s voting infrastructure for the 2020 elections.

Carney’s executive order comes a week before Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill enabling state governors to enlist the National Guard to help safeguard critical election infrastructure at the state and local level. The bill would include cybersecurity operations and missions in the training of activated National Guard troops.

‘‘Such training or other duty may include cybersecurity operations or missions undertaken by the [Guard] member’s unit at the request of the Governor of the State concerned to protect critical infrastructure,” the bill reads.

As specified in an executive order Carney signed effective October 15, the Squadron will work with the Delaware Department of Elections and the Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) to defend against cybersecurity threats, including:

  • Providing advice to DTI to prevent, protect and defend against cyber incidents.
  • Monitoring and analyzing risks or threats.
  • Offering technical and architectural review support for best practices.
  • Responding to any incidents.
  • Training and support after the election.

“Voting is our most fundamental right as Delawareans and Americans, and we will not take for granted the right to cast a vote and to have that vote counted,” Carney said. “Throughout our country’s history, Americans have sacrificed to secure voting rights for our fellow citizens. We have an obligation to take additional steps to protect that right from any cyber threats. This Executive Order is a proactive measure to do just that.”

Under a Deputy Secretary of Defense Policy Memorandum, the Delaware National Guard may coordinate, train, advise, and assist cyber support and services. The Squadron is also authorized to provide cybersecurity assistance to any other state entity, upon request, with election-related responsibilities or systems used or needed for the 2020 elections.

In 2018, Governor Carney approved DTI’s request for the Delaware National Guard to provide similar assistance for the 2018 Primary Election and 2018 General Election. An executive order was not issued because the Governor did not activate any National Guardsmen or women to State Active Duty. Carney’s executive order is good though December 31, 2020.

Ten states have already committed to using their Army or Air Force National Guard cybersecurity units to help protect the integrity of the election process, including Colorado, North Carolina, Washington and Ohio.

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