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Bipartisan bill seeks to boost joint U.S.-Israel cybersecurity initiatives

Members of both parties from both chambers of Congress are supporting the legislation

Courtesy

Sen. Jacky Rosen

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers is introducing legislation that would provide $30 million over five years to facilitate joint cybersecurity partnership programs between the United States and Israel.

The legislation comes as Washington continues to grapple with an escalating series of cyberattacks in which Russian intelligence was able to compromise scores of government agencies and private companies. The U.S. and Israel’s common enemy, Iran, has also been implicated in a series of cyber attacks in recent years.

In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Todd Young (R-IN), joined by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) in the House.

The legislation would establish a Department of Homeland Security grant program to fund research by a range of actors, including government entities, private companies, nonprofits and academic institutions, under the condition that they partner with corresponding entities in the other country. 

Grants would be assigned by the secretary of Homeland Security, advised by a three-member board made up of one federal government representative and two members recommended by other preexisting U.S.-Israel cooperative groups.

“As cybersecurity threats continue to grow in scale, frequency, and sophistication, it’s critical that we find innovative solutions to acquire new technologies,” Rosen said in a statement. “To help us stay ahead of the curve, this bipartisan legislation would enable greater collaboration between the United States and Israel — a major hub for new and emerging cybersecurity technologies. Together, we can develop forward-thinking cybersecurity technologies and initiatives that protect both nations from malicious cyber actors.”

Collins highlighted the effect last year’s SolarWinds breach had on the security and intelligence communities.

“Cyberattacks pose a grave risk to our national security, intellectual property, personal data, and public safety. The recent SolarWinds hack demonstrated how vulnerable U.S. networks are to cyberattacks and should serve as a wake-up call about the need to address our glaring vulnerabilities,” Collins said in a statement.

Langevin has twice introduced this legislation in the House, in 2016 and 2017, following a fact-finding visit to Israel and it passed both times by voice vote. The Senate did not take action on the bill on either occasion.

This is also not Rosen’s first attempt to establish a binational cybersecurity partnership between the U.S. and Israel. In 2019, she introduced a bill that would have required the State Department to explore establishing a joint cybersecurity research center. That bill did not pass out of committee during the previous congressional session.

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