The US Senate passed a bipartisan amendment to the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Department of Homeland Security to establish a Cybersecurity State Coordinator position in every state. The legislation will now need to be conferenced with the version passed by the House of Representatives.

The bipartisan provision was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Corthe  nyn (R-TX), and Gary Peters (D-MI). 

Under the legislation, each state would have its own federally funded Cybersecurity Coordinator, who would be responsible for helping to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats by working with federal, state, and local governments, as well as schools, hospitals, and other entities. This amendment mirrors the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act that the Senators introduced earlier this year, and in March, the Homeland Security Committee voted on a bipartisan basis to approve this legislation.

“Cybersecurity for state and local governments is just as important as efforts at the federal level, and frequently, they lack the resources, technical know-how, and situational awareness to secure their systems, or respond in the event of an attack,” said Senator Portman. “I’m pleased that the Senate included this bipartisan proposal in the NDAA because it will strengthen the cybersecurity relationship between the federal government and state and local governments.  This amendment is based on our bipartisan bill, the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act.”  

“Since the start of this pandemic, hospital systems have seen an increase in cyberattacks, which threaten their ability to respond to this crisis and keep their patients safe,” Senator Hassan said. “Cybersecurity Coordinators will serve as a bridge between the federal government and state and local entities. Establishing a Cybersecurity Coordinator position in every state will help protect our public health infrastructure and our communities by strengthening cybersecurity preparedness.” 

“As cyber threats to the United States continue to evolve, it is critical we remain ready to respond to any attack at the state and local level as well,” said Senator Cornyn. “Designating one point of contact in each state to respond to cybersecurity breaches will help us mobilize our defenses and keep Americans safe in a crisis faster than ever before.” 

“We live in an increasingly interconnected society, and state and local governments need clear lines of communication and an understanding of what federal resources are available to protect them from ever-evolving cyber threats,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Bad actors will always target the path of least resistance – which is why we must boost cyber-security at all levels of government. I’m proud this bipartisan effort passed the Senate, which will ensure states can better recognize potential threats and have access to more resources to respond to cyber-attacks.”