The governors of 22 Western states have appealed to the federal government to step up efforts to deter foreign hackers from undermining the election process, and to work more closely with states on “early, meaningful and substantive” measures to protect America’s cybersecurity.
“State election systems remain targets of foreign interference (and) there is nothing more fundamental to the enduring success of our American democracy,” the governors said in a joint resolution sent to Congress last week.
“This is an imminent national security threat that transcends party lines.”
In a resolution of the Western Governors Association, the governors warned that the federal government’s ability to cope with cyberattacks on the nation’s energy grids and other key parts of the infrastructure was seriously undermined by “a severe deficit” of trained cyberworkers, and further exacerbated by Washington’s failure to renew the position of White House cybersecurity coordinator.
“Our nation cannot defend itself without a well-trained, experienced cyber workforce,” the bipartisan group said in a message to Congressional leaders.
“The public sector must dedicate resources to cybersecurity education, training and recruitment programs, and encourage the private sector to do the same through effective policy.”
The White House scrapped the cybersecurity position on the National Security Council in May, under a directive from national security advisor John Bolton shortly after he was appointed.
Bolton said the post was no longer considered necessary because cybersecurity issues were already a “core function” of the president’s national security team.
At the time, the decision came in for sharp criticism from senior congressional leaders.
“I don’t see how getting rid of the top cyberofficial in the White House does anything to make our country safer from cyber threats,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The governors cited a report by the federal government in May, finding that 71 of 96 federal agencies were “at risk or high risk of cyberintrusions.”
The report also charged that federal agencies were “not equipped” to figure out how saboteurs were able to gain access to the agencies’ computer systems.
“This deficiency results in ineffective allocations of the agencies’ limited cyber resources,” the governors said.
According to the governors, the parts of the federal government infrastructure at risk include the electric grid, energy resource and supply delivery chains, finance, communications, the chemical industry, the defense industrial base, healthcare and public health and wearter and wastewater systems.
“The federal government should use the full range of economic tools, including travel and financial sanctions, to deter cyberattacks organized or supported by nation-states,” the governors said.