Lawmakers Want Spy Agencies to Help Secure Government Tech and Elections

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The Intelligence Authorization Act would increase the IC’s involvement in a number of federal tech and cyber efforts.

Lawmakers want to see the intelligence community playing a bigger role in locking down the government’s IT supply chain, defending against foreign election meddling and cutting down the security clearance backlog.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved an appropriations bill that would increase U.S. spy agencies’ involvement in a wide range of government tech and cybersecurity efforts. The legislation, which would fund the IC through the end of 2020, would also increase protections for whistleblowers and give Congress more oversight over the country’s intelligence operations.

“This legislation is vital for countering the growing threats posed by hostile foreign actors, including Russia, China and Iran, and for strengthening our nation’s election security,” Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement. “It also invests in the future of the intelligence community by improving personnel retention and recruitment, ensuring we have the best and brightest working to keep America safe.”

Though the bill’s final text has yet to be released, the committee leaders said it includes a number of measures to strengthen agencies’ role in defending the country against digital threats.

According to the committee, the legislation would create a task force within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence dedicated to locking down the government’s IT supply chain. Many federal leaders see the supply chain as one of the most pressing security issues facing agencies today, and the task force would be responsible for helping them explore more effective strategies for keeping dubious vendors from doing business with government.

The bill would also devote more of the community’s resources to fighting foreign cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at swaying U.S. elections and sharing information with federal, state and local government officials. Under the legislation, the IC would also direct more resources to monitoring Russian influence campaigns, financial activity and other intelligence operations.

The bill would also call on intelligence officials to create a plan to further reduce the security clearance backlog, increase job benefits for technologists and scientists within the IC, and instate 12-week paid parental leave for all employees.

Though the government doesn’t release a detailed breakdown of the intelligence community’s annual budget, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in March requested a combined $62.8 billion for the group’s 2020 operations.