Maritime cybersecurity is front and center in Coast Guard reauthorization bill

The U.S Coast Guard cutter Eagle at Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The U.S Coast Guard cutter Eagle at Pier 5 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Philippe Debled/Getty Images

A new Coast Guard reauthorization bill would provide some of the first cybersecurity protections and data management requirements for the U.S. Marine Transportation System in federal law.

A new bill to reauthorize the Coast Guard service through fiscal year 2023 would task the military branch with developing Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technology strategies, along with a series of cybersecurity and data management requirements.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022 last week, which seeks to address numerous gaps in federal laws surrounding maritime cybersecurity. The legislation orders the Coast Guard to develop a set of cyber data management policies and processes to ensure the effective use of mission-relevant data, and would direct the Comptroller General to study cyber threats impacting the U.S. Marine Transportation System. 

The bill would also expand the Coast Guard’s procurement authority to develop and procure cost-effective technologies, while establishing limits for the procurement of specific Chinese technologies – some of which are currently in use by the military branch. 

The Coast Guard would also be required to coordinate with the Cybersecurity and infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Maritime Administration (MARAD) on cybersecurity efforts, including identifying and providing maritime operators with tools needed to respond to cyber incidents.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Commerce Committee, and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the bill on Thursday along with subcommittee chair Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). It features significant investments in the Coast Guard's presence throughout the Arctic region – including $841 million for the third Polar Security Cutter program – and $3 billion to address infrastructure repair and outstanding shoreside infrastructure needs. 

"The American people depend on the U.S. Coast Guard now more than ever,” Sen. Wicker said in a statement. "This bill would take a major step toward addressing needs such as deteriorating buildings, outdated equipment, and a lack of adequate funding."

The reauthorization bill would also expand access to medical care, affordable housing and childcare options, as well as promote diversity within the military branch. It grants the Coast Guard new authorities to allow for autonomous vessels in certain space recovery operations, in part to assist with spacecraft returning from space. 

Under the bill, the Coast Guard would be required to study the extent to which the military branch is collaborating with the private sector to bolster cybersecurity protections in port and vessel systems.