The House Tuesday late afternoon passed 13 bills dealing with cyber and homeland security, including a measure that authorizes a new federal grant program to bolster cybersecurity at the state and local levels.
The bipartisan bills were approved together by a vote of 319 to 105 and still require Senate approval.
The State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act (H.R. 3138) was sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and would create a $500 million grant program within the Department of Homeland Security to provide state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) governments with funding to strengthen their networks against cyber-attacks, including ransomware.
The bill requires potential grant recipients to develop a comprehensive plan for how funding will be used and directs the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to develop a strategy to help improve the cybersecurity of SLTTs and to examine a short-term rotational employment program to enable SLTT government employees to work at CISA.
Another cyber bill, the DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act of 2021 (H.R. 1833), introduced by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), would ensure CISA has the lead federal role in protecting critical infrastructure and requires the agency to maintain capabilities to detect and mitigate threats and vulnerabilities to industrial control systems. It also requires CISA to maintain cross-sector response capabilities, and coordinate and provide vulnerability information about industrial control systems to stakeholders.
The House also passed two other bills related to CISA, including the Cybersecurity Vulnerability Remediation Act (H.R. 2980), sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), which requires the agency to help owners and operators of critical infrastructures with strategies to mitigate against the most critical cyber vulnerabilities. The bill would also require the DHS Science and Technology branch to work with CISA on a potential incentive-based program that allows the private sector, individuals and academia to compete in providing remediation services for cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
The CISA Cyber Exercise Act (H.R. 3223), introduced by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), creates a National Cyber Exercise program within CISA to evaluate the National Cyber Incident Response Plan and other related plans, simulate the “partial or complete incapacitation of a government or critical infrastructure network” due to a cyber incident, and evaluate cyber readiness and enhance cyber incident response.
Another bill sponsored by Katko, Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act (H.R. 3264), authorizes DHS to conduct research and development into supply chain risks for infrastructures critical to economic security and evaluate national security impacts due to disruption, corruption, exploitation or dysfunction.
The House also passed several transportation security-related bills, including the Transportation Security Transparency Improvement Act (H.R. 1871), introduced by Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), that would provide visibility into policymaking at the Transportation Security Administration. The bill requires the agency to communicate more clearly regarding its security directives and to regularly review and update sensitive security information identification guidelines.
The Strengthening Local Transportation Security Capabilities Act of 2021 (H.R. 1870), sponsored by Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), would deploy more federal intelligence analysts closer to high-risk transportation assets to help with information sharing, and provide terrorism-focused training, and improve cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement partners.
The Transportation Security Public Threat Preparedness Act (H.R. 1895), introduced by Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), would authorize TSA to send staff to other DHS components and federal agencies to improve response efforts to public health threats to the nation’s transportation security statement. The bill also requires the agency to do a risk assessment of DHS and other federal agencies’ preparedness to respond to public health threats to the transportation security system.
The House also passed a bill to strengthen research and development at DHS by authorizing the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory within the Science and Technology (NUSTL) Directorate. The Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act (H.R. 1850), introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), strengthens the position of the lab after the Trump administration attempted to shutter it by cutting off funding.
The NUSTL is used to test and evaluate technologies for first responders.