Senators press federal officials for ISAC funding, national 5G strategy

Key lawmakers in the U.S. Senate today called for increased funding of the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center and Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, while others demanded the development of a national 5G strategy.

On Tuesday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters, D-Mich. published an open letter, addressed to Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher Krebs, asking that the Department of Homeland Security (CISA's parent agency) boost the budget for MS-ISAC and EI-ISAC.

Operated by the Center for Internet Security, the two ISAC organizations are responsible for gathering and distributing timely cyber threat information, best practices recommendations and defense tools to relevant local, state and federal governments bodies and officials – specifically election officials in the case of EI-ISAC.

The letter said it is "surprising and concerning that CIS may not have enough funding to carry out its mission of improving the overall cybersecurity posture of the nation's SLTT [state, local, tribal, and territorial] entities – the exact mission that CISA has asked it to take on. We were dismayed to learn that the Department's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 covers less than 70 percent of the approximately $15 million required to maintain MS-ISAC and EI-ISAC at the level that does not result in CIS reducing or eliminating their services to their customers."

"With the recent surge of ransomware attacks and 2020 elections fast approaching, we cannot afford to curtain support to SLTT entities and election administrators when they need it most. The prospect of a ransomware attack against election infrastructure is real and threatens the foundations of our democracy."

Also today, a contingent of senators from both sides of the aisle sent a separate open letter to National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, strongly recommending that U.S. develop a national 5G strategy as well as appoint a senior coordinator who would oversee the development and deployment of 5G and other cutting-edge communications technologies.

“In our view, the current national level approach to 5G comprises of a dispersed coalition of common concern, rather than a coordinated, interagency activity. Without a national strategy, facilitated by a common understanding of the geopolitical and technical impact of 5G and future telecommunications advancements, we expect each agency will continue to operate within its own mandate, rather than identifying national authority and policy deficiencies that do not neatly fall into a single department or agency," the letter states. "This fractured approach will not be sufficient to rise to the challenge the country faces."

The correspondence was jointly penned by Senate Intel Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner, D-Virg. and Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Ranking Member Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and Ranking Member Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; and Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Jack Reed, D-R.I.

The letter goes on to warn that the U.S. cannot continue to take a backseat to China, which currently leads the 5G telecommunications marketplace.

"China's leadership, combined with the United States' increased reliance on high-speed, reliable telecommunications services to facilitate both commerce and defense, poses a strategic risk for the country," the letter asserts. "We cannot rely exclusively on defensive measures to solve or mitigate the issue, but rather we must shape the future of advanced telecommunications technology by supporting domestic innovation through meaningful investments, leveraging existing areas of U.S. strength, and bringing together like-minded allies and private sector expertise through a sustained effort over the course of decades, not months."

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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