Lawmakers Want to Fund Cyber Upgrades for State and Local Governments

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A bill introduced Monday would create a federal grant program for cash-strapped states that want to bolster their digital defenses.

A bipartisan bill introduced on Monday would require the Homeland Security Department to fund efforts by state and local governments to boost their cyber defenses.

The Cyber Resiliency Act would create a federal grant program to support cybersecurity upgrades for governments that often lack the resources to fund their own endeavors. It would also mandate states that participate in the program work to improve recruitment and retention in their cyber workforce.

“As cyberattacks increase in frequency and gravity, we must ensure that our nation—from our local governments on up—is adequately prepared to protect public safety and combat cyber threats,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who cosponsored the bill with Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “Nearly 70 percent of states have reported that they lack adequate funding to develop sufficient cybersecurity. This bill will aim to mitigate that need by providing grants to state and local jurisdictions so that they are better prepared to take on these emerging challenges.”

Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, introduced companion legislation in the House. A similar bill was introduced during the last Congress but never made it out of committee.

Under the legislation, states would be eligible for up to two grants to create a holistic cyber resiliency plan that touches on issues like network security, continuous vulnerability checks, workforce development and critical infrastructure protection. Once the strategy is approved by the Homeland Security secretary, states could receive another two grants to put it into practice.

States awarded implementation grants would be able to funnel funding to specific local and tribal governments.

The legislation would also create a 15-person committee to review grants and resiliency plans, and keep tabs on how states are spending the grants. The committee would help states craft effective cyber improvement policies and submit annual reports on the program to Congress.

If passed, the bill would fund the program through fiscal 2025. Lawmakers didn’t specify how much money would be allocated.