The legislation calls for development of new cybersecurity training and education programs for federal and state homeland security employees in advance of widespread ransomware or digital attacks.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security advanced several new bills to the chamber floor late Tuesday, including one that focuses on training the public sector workforce on best practices in cybersecurity.
Along with three other bills, the House committee passed the National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act of 2021. First introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas., and Patrick Leahy, D-VT, the bill passed the Senate on March 7 in a 403-19 vote.
Among other provisions, the bill directs the Department of Homeland Security and nonprofit officials to develop and analyze cybersecurity training plans for homeland security employees.
The legislation’s passing comes as the U.S.’s national security could hinge on a strong cybersecurity posture.
“At a time when there is so much division in this body, I am pleased that the House came together in a bipartisan way to approve homeland security measures that seek to help cities who suddenly find themselves without the resources to maintain capabilities achieved with DHS grants, improve the quality of training for DHS officers, ensure equitable treatment for Native American officers serving in ICE and help States secure needed cybersecurity education and training,” Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said of the four bills that passed. “Given the complex and dynamic terrorism threat landscape—which includes constantly evolving cyber threats—I commend Congresswoman Demings for her steadfast commitment to ensuring first responders are prepared.”
The Cybersecurity Consortium Act also emphasizes cybersecurity education in advance of emergency scenarios, including widespread ransomware or digital attacks. Notably, it states that any curriculum developed by DHS and the consortium of experts should be disseminated to state, tribal and local governments, along with federal entities, to protect critical infrastructure nationwide.
Among other training tactics, the bill would allocate resources necessary for employee simulations to practice responding to cyber incidents.
In a statement following the bill’s House passage, both of its sponsors addressed the critical role cybersecurity strategy plays in national security, especially amid Russia’s ongoing military assault on Ukraine.
"In the face of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States must remain extra vigilant against potentially disastrous cyber threats from Russian hackers that would weaken our infrastructure and military readiness," said Cornyn. "This crucial bill will ensure our critical infrastructure operators and local governments are prepared for dangerous Russian cyber-attacks, and I'm proud to be joined by Senator Leahy in helping usher it into law."
Leahy added that the passage of the legislation will support government employee readiness for cyberattacks.
“There are few threats greater than those carried out through cyberspace that can upend the lives of Americans anywhere, from anywhere in the world. But with preparation, like that coached by NCPC, those threats can be mitigated,” Leahy said.
The National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act of 2021 will now head to the House floor for a final vote that determines whether it will make it to President Joe Biden’s desk.