March 10, 2017

Castro, Cornyn Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Local Cybersecurity Defenses

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) yesterday reintroduced The National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act, H.R. 1465, legislation that allows non-profit entities, including universities, to work more closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address cybersecurity risks and incidents at the state and local level. Every member of the San Antonio delegation in the House (Reps. Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35),  Will Hurd (TX-23), and Lamar Smith (TX-21)) has signed on as a co-sponsor of the measure, and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has also reintroduced the Senate companion bill. Both Rep. Castro and Sen. Cornyn initially introduced the legislation in the 114th Congress, when it passed the House of Representatives with broad support. 

“As all facets of American society become increasingly reliant on digital infrastructure, we must ensure our cyber defenses keep pace. Our government, businesses, and individuals cannot afford to fall behind as cyber threats grow more sophisticated in the years to come, ” said Rep. Castro. “This legislation allows the Department of Homeland Security to collaborate with experts outside of the government to improve state and local cyber preparedness. With new access to specialists and cutting edge guidance, communities can improve their security and better plan for potential cyber attacks. I’m glad this timely bill has strong bipartisan support in both chambers, and I’m hopeful it becomes law.”

The National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium’s (NCPC) work to improve communities’ cyber defenses served as the inspiration for Rep. Castro’s legislation. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is a leader of the NCPC. 
Specifically, this legislation would authorize DHS to work with consortiums to: 

  • Provide training, develop and update curriculum, and provide technical assistance to state and local first responders and officials specifically for preparing for and responding to cybersecurity risks and incidents;
  • Conduct cross-sector cybersecurity training and simulation exercises for entities, including state and local governments, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and private industry, to encourage community-wide coordination in defending against and responding to cybersecurity risks and incidents; 
  • Help states and communities develop cybersecurity information sharing programs for the dissemination of homeland security information related to cybersecurity risks and incidents; and
  • Help states incorporate cybersecurity risk and incident prevention and response into existing state and local emergency plans. 

“With national security threats constantly evolving, we must take every precaution to ensure our communities are well-equipped to respond,” said Sen. Cornyn. “State and local governments often don’t have access to the same tools as entities at the federal level. This bill would allow two leading academic institutions in Texas to help train states and local governments to respond and mitigate a potential cyberattack.”

The National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act also requires DHS to conduct outreach to universities and colleges, including historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions, regarding opportunities to support DHS efforts to address cybersecurity risks and incidents.