Bipartisan Cyber Action in the Senate Deserves Our Support

In 2018, the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee delivered a seminal “moonshot” call to make the internet safe and secure for critical infrastructure by 2028 and outlined an urgent “whole of nation” approach to success. The following year, the National Infrastructure Advisory Council recommended “urgent and comprehensive action” on cyber threats to critical infrastructure and made specific recommendations for moving forward as a nation. And, earlier this year, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission established by an act of Congress proposed a strategy of layered cyber deterrence with over 80 recommendations to implement the strategy.

In sum – thoughtful, reasoned progress all, moving this critical issue from concept toward reality. Each of these three reports – produced by three different committees and commissions of public and private sector experts – came to many of the same conclusions. They include: requiring urgency of action, cyber norms, functional resilience, trusted ecosystems, federal leadership, organized industry efforts, cyber education, grand challenges, safer behaviors and more.

The underlying theme from all: Now is the time for action.

The Senate is taking action

Building upon the NSTAC, NIAC and Cyber Solarium reports, the next step of the national cybersecurity solution is now being formed in the United States Senate. Lawmakers are considering two bills that address common clarion calls of cyber education and innovation in America. The bills are the ‘‘Harvesting American Cybersecurity Knowledge through Education Act of 2019’’ and “Cybersecurity Competitions to Yield Better Efforts to Research the Latest Exceptionally Advanced Problems Act of 2020,” better known as the HACKED Act and the LEAP Act, respectively.

The HACKED Act is focused on the cyber education pillars of the earlier reports, and seeks to empower innovative and proven efforts to dramatically expand cyber education across America.  The bill calls for support of the Federal Cyber Scholarship for Service program at the National Science Foundation, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity of the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, and the GenCyber Program of the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency, which gives our youth hands-on training in a very realistic setting, as well as training and apprenticeship programs at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, while also supporting centers of cyber excellence throughout the military and intelligence community.

The LEAP Act calls for “establishment of National Cybersecurity Grand Challenges … to achieve high-priority breakthroughs in cybersecurity by 2028.” The bill covers key challenges as outlined in the reports, including changing the economics of a cyberattack, improving cyber training, leveraging emerging technology, reimagining digital identity, increasing federal agency resilience and other challenges deemed appropriate.

The HACKED Act (put forth by Sens. Wicker, Cantwell, Rosen and Gardner) and the LEAP Act (sponsored by Sens. Wicker, Rosen and Gardener) together take a positive step toward enhancing cyber education to meet the needs of a secure collective future. They do this by both incentivizing innovation through grand challenges and enhancing education and training at all levels. These insightful bills build upon the recommendations of the NSTAC, NIAC and Solarium reports by actioning several of the key findings.

Working together to turn these bills into law

The realities of our new digital world, compounded by the newest reality of the global pandemic, require that we all rethink how we approach security. Our national security is now inexorably linked to cybersecurity, the cyber threats have never been higher, and the current pandemic has exposed weaknesses, shortages and gaps across our critical infrastructures.

This is a time for industry and academia to step forward together in support of these bills and work closely with congress and the federal government toward these goals. I hope other leaders from industry and academia will join me in actively supporting these bills into law.

Peter A. Altabef is the CEO of Unisys, the former president and CEO of Perot Systems Corporation and is a member of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, having served as co-chair of its Cybersecurity Moonshot subcommittee.

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