Bipartisan support for the bill is driven by a workforce development component.
The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a bill that would offer cash and non-cash prizes for cybersecurity innovations—though it received a bit of a haircut from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
The Cybersecurity Competitions to Yield Better Efforts to Research the Latest Exceptionally Advanced Problems—or CYBER LEAP—Act of 2020 instructs the Commerce Secretary to establish national grand challenges to “achieve high-priority breakthroughs in cybersecurity by 2028” in five areas: the economics of a cyberattack, cyber training, emerging technology, reimagining digital identity and federal agency resilience.
It passed the committee today with an amendment from Lee eliminating the Commerce Secretary’s authority to establish additional grand challenges. Another Lee amendment clarifies that an advisory committee the bill calls for to inform aspects such as metrics for judging the competitions would not be compensated beyond travel reimbursements.
The grand challenges idea was originally proposed by leaders of tech companies such as Unisys, Qualcomm and Palo Alto Networks. It is outlined in the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee’s report on creating a cybersecurity “moonshot.” The Commerce Secretary is supposed to take the report’s recommendations into consideration in establishing the challenge competitions.
The size and other details of the prizes are not spelled out in the legislation. And whereas the original moonshot report counts on large appropriations from Congress, the CYBER LEAP Act points to other funding sources.
“The Secretary shall request and accept funds from other Federal agencies, State, United States territory, local, or tribal government agencies, private sector for-profit entities, and nonprofit entities to support efforts to pursue a national cybersecurity grand challenge,” the bill reads.
The legislation is sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.
Rosen, a former computer coder, is most excited about the “cyber training” grand challenge, which would involve “developing a cybersecurity workforce with measurable skills to protect and maintain information systems.”
“Investing in our cybersecurity workforce is vital for our national security and our economic future,” she told Nextgov. “That’s why I’m glad to see the CYBER LEAP Act move out of committee and head to the Senate floor. Building on our bipartisan efforts to develop a cybersecurity workforce with the skills needed to keep our country safe from cyber threats, this new legislation will help spark innovation and put Americans to work finding solutions to our nation’s greatest cybersecurity challenges.”