This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed thirteen bipartisan homeland security bills. Included was legislation to authorize a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant program to bolster the cybersecurity of State and local government networks in response to a slew of ransomware and other cyber attacks in recent years.
Additionally, the House passed measures to improve the country’s cybersecurity posture, enhance security for transportation infrastructure, and improve DHS’ response to COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson said cyber attacks have increased at a rapid pace this year and pose a persistent threat to our national security. “The State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act is an essential step to ensure our state and local governments are not left vulnerable to cyber attacks and I am pleased that the House came together to pass this critical bipartisan legislation. I am also glad the House also passed twelve other timely homeland security bills that are focused on helping DHS better meet its mission to address the myriad of threats we face today. I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure these bills become law.”
The 13 bipartisan bills are:
The “State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act” (H.R. 3138) was introduced by Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Security, and Innovation Subcommittee Chair Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY) together with Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) as well as Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Katko. This bill seeks to authorize a new $500 million grant program to provide State and local, Tribal, and Territorial governments with dedicated funding to secure their networks from ransomware and other cyber attacks.
The “Strengthening Local Transportation Security Capabilities Act of 2021” (H.R. 1870) was introduced by Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee Chair Nanette Barragán (D-CA). This bill seeks to improve information sharing by putting more Federal intelligence analysts and resources near high-risk surface transportation assets, including public transportation rail and bus systems. It would also provide new terrorism-focused training, and improve cooperation between Federal, state and local law enforcement partners in a manner in a manner consistent with the protection of privacy rights, civil rights, and civil liberties, of information regarding threats of terrorism and other threats, including targeted violence.
The “Transportation Security Preparedness Act of 2021” (H.R. 1893) was introduced by Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chair Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). This bill requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to survey its workforce on how it has handled COVID-19 and develop a transportation security preparedness plan for future communicable disease outbreaks. In addition, the bill directs the Government Accountability Office to review TSA’s plan.
The “Security Screening During COVID-19 Act” (H.R. 1877) was introduced by Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). This bill directs TSA to issue and begin implementing a plan to enhance security operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus at passenger screening checkpoints and among the TSA workforce. The TSA Administrator is required to consult with stakeholders and the TSA workforce when developing the plan and submit the finalized plan to Congress. GAO will review the implementation of the Act.
The “Cybersecurity Vulnerability Remediation Act” (H.R. 2980) was introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). This bill would authorize CISA to assist critical infrastructure owners and operators with mitigation strategies against the most critical, known vulnerabilities.
The “CISA Cyber Exercise Act” (H.R. 3223) was introduced by Intelligence and Counterterrorism Subcommittee Chair Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). This bill establishes a National Cyber Exercise program within CISA to promote more regular testing and systemic assessments of preparedness and resilience to cyber attacks against critical infrastructure.
The “Supporting Research and Development for First Responders Act” (H.R. 1850) was introduced by Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY). This bill would ensure that DHS continues to carry out critical research and development of protective equipment and other technology needed by first responders. For three years, the Trump Administration proposed cuts that would have closed critical Homeland Security laboratories and centers of excellence.
The “Transportation Security Transparency Improvement Act” (H.R. 1871) was introduced by Congressman Dan Bishop (R-NC). This legislation seeks to improve transparency in TSA policymaking. It requires TSA to review and improve the agency’s processes for designating Sensitive Security Information and communicating with stakeholders about Security Directives and Emergency Amendments.
The “Transportation Security Public Threat Preparedness Act” (H.R. 1895) was introduced by Transportation and Maritime Security Ranking Member Carlos Gimenez (R-FL). This bill authorizes TSA to detail staff to other DHS components and Federal agencies to improve response efforts to public health threats to the nation’s transportation security system. This measure also requires TSA to conduct a risk analysis of the Department and other Federal agencies’ preparedness to respond to public health threats to the transportation security system.
The “DHS Blue Campaign Enhancement Act” (H.R. 2795) was introduced by Oversight, Management, and Accountability Ranking Member Peter Meijer (R-MI). This bill strengthens the DHS Blue Campaign and enhances the availability of human trafficking prevention training opportunities and the development of such trainings and materials.
The “DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act of 2021” (H.R. 1833) was introduced by Committee Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY). This bill is focused on improving CISA’s ability to detect and mitigate cyber threats and vulnerabilities to industrial control systems. It also requires CISA to maintain cross-sector incident response capabilities, provide technical assistance to stakeholders and collect, coordinate, and provide vulnerability information about industrial control systems to stakeholders.
The “DHS Medical Countermeasures Act” (H.R. 3263) was introduced by Congresswoman Mariannette Miller Meeks (R-IA). This bill would establish a medical countermeasures program to support DHS mission continuity and facilitate the readiness and resilience in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosives attack, naturally occurring disease outbreak, or pandemic.
The “Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act” (H.R. 3264) was introduced by Committee Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY). This bill authorizes DHS to conduct research and development into supply chain risks for critical domains of the United States economy and transmit the results to Congress.