U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, spoke Thursday to the Times about recent efforts to improve the nation’s cybersecurity strategy.
Ms. Stefanik, a member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, discussed a new provision included in the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that keeps members of Congress more up to date on growing cybersecurity threats facing the United States.
Under the provision, Armed Services Committee members in the House and the Senate must receive quarterly briefings on offensive and defensive operations carried out by the U.S. Department of Defense. Geared toward improving oversight and U.S. Cyber Command, Ms. Stefanik said the mandate is modeled after quarterly counterterrorism briefings members already receive.
“We need to ensure Congress is getting timely information about our cyber operations,” Ms. Stefanik said, adding that more investments are needed to ensure the United States is protected. “I think we need to do more to make sure all our government institutions, whether it’s at the federal or state levels, have the tools to protect our data.”
As part of the briefings, members of Congress will receive separate briefings for geological areas where cyber operations are conducted by or toward the United States as well as legal issues surrounding such operations.
On top of improving Cyber Command, Ms. Stefanik said there are also increased efforts to bolster the cybersecurity workforce through scholarship programs and improving services, as well as maintaining international cybersecurity partnerships with allies to combat cyber attacks from adversaries, including North Korea.
Additionally, Ms. Stefanik said the Trump administration should also quickly fill vital cybersecurity positions in various departments that are still vacant. For instance, some leadership positions within Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Division are currently vacant, as well as chief information officer jobs for other federal agencies.
“I think the appointment process should move much faster so we have the personnel that we need in place,” she said.
Earlier this year, Homeland Security and the FBI released reports that the country’s power infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, had been subject to hacking attempts, spurring pressure from federal lawmakers to address cyber security needs.
Two of New York state’s nuclear power plants — James A. FitzPatrick and Nine Mile Point — are in Oswego County.