GOP lawmakers caution DHS could defund cooperative programs with Israel

The lawmakers claim DHS may not fund cooperative cyber and homeland security grant programs with Israel this year

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testifies during a hearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary at Rayburn House Office Building on July 26, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

In a letter sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this week, a group of House Republicans alleges that the Department of Homeland Security may not provide funding this year for cooperative cyber and homeland security grant programs with Israel.

The letter was signed by Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Nicholas Langworthy (R-NY), Nick LaLota (R-NY), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) and Mike Lawler (R-NY). It cites unspecified “reports” about DHS’ plans, which Garbarino’s office said originated from individuals with direct knowledge of the programs’ funding levels.

DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

The letter notes that the 2023 appropriations bill passed by Congress does not specify funding levels for the programs — the U.S.-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation grant program and the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development Homeland Security (BIRD HLS) program — but urges the department to “consider funding” for both programs.

Congress previously proposed $6 million annually for the cybersecurity program when it created it in 2021. Last year, supporters of the programs from both parties urged congressional appropriators to provide $2 million for BIRD HLS and $6 million for the cybersecurity program.

According to the DHS website, BIRD HLS grants are set to be announced by September and cybersecurity grants were set to be announced in March. It’s unclear if that announcement occurred. Per the BIRD website, just one grant was approved through BIRD HLS in 2022. The cybersecurity grant program first launched in June 2022 and no awarded grants appear on the BIRD website.

The letter from the GOP lawmakers highlights the growing threat from Iranian cyber attacks to the U.S. and Israel.

“These two programs incentivize academic and private sector innovation from two of the world’s leaders in cybersecurity to jointly combat the evolving threats we face from malign actors,” the letter reads. “Both programs should be funded at the levels authorized by Congress in order to ensure both countries are armed with the tools necessary to protect our critical infrastructure.”

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