Newly reintroduced legislation would direct $1 million in 2023 to train election officials at the state and local level on handling cybersecurity.
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Committee on Rules and Administration, and Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of a Senate Intelligence Committee, proposed the Invest in Our Democracy Act, which would direct the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide grants to election officials for continuing education in election administration or cybersecurity.
The Invest in Our Democracy Act of 2021 would:
- Establish a grant program administered by the EAC to cover up to 75 percent of the cost of the yearly tuition of election officials and employees who are enrolled in an accredited certificate program for election administration or cybersecurity.
- Define eligible persons to include state or local election officials, employees of a state or local election official, or an employee of the EAC.
- Provide $1,000,000 for fiscal year 2023 and such sums necessary to fiscal year.
Klobuchar and Collins originally introduced the bill in 2019 but it did not advance in the Senate.
“Our intelligence officials have made clear that our election systems continue to be a target for foreign adversaries,” said Klobuchar. “While federal and state officials have agreed that the 2020 election was ‘the most secure in American history,’ we must continue to do everything in our power to protect our democracy from the ongoing threat of foreign interference,” she said. The bipartisan bill would “would help provide training and support to election officials who are dedicated to keeping our elections safe and secure,” Collins said.
Cybersecurity training and awareness programs are gaining traction as malware attacks grow in number. In the most recent example, the Department of Homeland Security's cyber wing has rolled out a new public awareness program to help organizations fight the ransomware scourge hitting governments, schools and private industry. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) public awareness campaign features information on available resources to defend against ransomware attacks, trainings, webinars and alerts .
Congress is expected to take up a number of new measures in 2021 to fight the flood of ransomware attacks hitting public sector organizations along with other pressing cybersecurity issues, a number of legislators and security experts said. Lawmakers are expected to look at legislation to allocate federal funds to state and local governments to pump up their cybersecurity defenses. House Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said he and other lawmakers will again try to pass the State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill to establish a $400 million grant program to provide funds to help lower-level government agencies erect digital barriers to cyber attacks.
A similar clarion call for support hospitals victimized by ransomware extortionists was issued by ranking member Rep John Katko (R-NY) of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee. Lawmakers are also expected to home in on the nation’s need for continued vigilance to secure U.S. elections from foreign intervention.