DHS ‘Doubling Down’ on Election Security Heading Into 2020

CISA Director Christopher Krebs speaks during an October news conference on election security.

CISA Director Christopher Krebs speaks during an October news conference on election security. Evan Vucci/AP

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Under Congress’ budget deal, the Homeland Security Department will receive $33 million to combat foreign influence campaigns and defend election security in fiscal 2019.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs told reporters Thursday that the Homeland Security Department’s election security and countering foreign influence efforts are ramping up, not tapering down as a report Wednesday by The Daily Beast suggested.

The report said two task forces set up within CISA—the agency within DHS that responded to Russian meddling in the 2016 election—were now hemorrhaging personnel, and anonymous officials cited in the report expressed fears they might not be replaced in the lead up to the 2020 election.

“We are doubling down [on election security] in advance of the 2020 election,” Krebs said. “Despite what some of the reporting might be, election security and countering foreign influence efforts aren’t going anywhere.”

Krebs said CISA will receive $33 million in this week’s spending deal (pending Congress’ approval and President Trump’s signature) to fund those efforts. That’s a $7 million increase over last fiscal year’s election security funding that will be used for a variety of election infrastructure security initiatives and hiring new personnel, Krebs said.

Krebs said prior task forces “were stood up to address emerging issues you’re not resourced for,” and pointed to the agency’s success in the 2018 midterms as evidence their election security strategy worked. He said the strategy is akin to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s field model for disaster response, whereby CISA has “hundreds of people out in the field” ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

“We have a team in place,” Krebs said. “We’re institutionalizing our election security efforts. As our workforce continues to grow, and it will, our numbers heading up to the 2020 election will only grow. We’re building. The trend is going up and not going down.”

Krebs said Congress’ decision to appropriate more money toward election security indicates lawmakers “recognize our role,” and described the $33 million as “a good number for us in terms of what we need to get done in terms of building out additional capabilities.”