Defending the Homeland Against Cyber Attacks

Every day, our adversaries perpetrate an unknown number of attacks against our nation. You don’t hear about all of them because they’re not taking down buildings or hijacking airplanes. These attacks are digital, and whether they are going after state secrets or your personal information, they are putting every citizen at risk.

If we want to adequately combat this emerging threat, we need to get our federal government ahead of the curve when it comes to cyber defense. We need a Better Way.

The first step is equipping our federal agencies to combat these threats. One of my first sponsored bills in the House was the EINSTEIN Act of 2015, which directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deploy the EINSTEIN program to any federal agency requesting it. This bill was rolled into the 2016 Omnibus and allows federal agencies to be equipped with cutting edge real-time analytical software that detects and blocks cyber attacks on federal networks. Just last week the Secretary of Homeland Security said this program has already blocked over one million hacking attempts.

This is a good start, but we’re far from done. Many of our non-defense agencies are running software that was built in the pioneer days of computers. They’ve been spending millions of taxpayer dollars building networks that utilize software that developers stopped supporting decades ago. The Modernizing Government Technology Act, which I introduced with partners from both sides of the aisle, allows agencies to take funding originally planned for use on maintaining these legacy systems, and spend it on modern cloud systems which are more secure and less expensive.

But all of this means nothing if we don’t have qualified professionals to guard the gates.

We must close the talent gap in cyber security. The problem is simple: We don’t have enough cyber professionals.  There are tens of thousands of unfilled computing jobs in the Texas private sector alone. And there are not enough students in our nation’s high schools or other institutions of higher learning who are considering Computer Science as their major or a job in the cyber industry after graduation.

We’re standing on the precipice of a radical paradigm shift in national security. To tackle this problem, we need to incentivize our nation’s youth to join the ranks of cyber professionals. That’s why I have been calling for a Cyber National Guard.

It’s time that we treat the process of attracting and maintaining quality talent into cyber realm the same way we do with the armed services. That means federal student loan forgiveness and training that translates to the private sector after service. How a program like this is implemented needs to be discussed in continued conversations between the public and private sectors.  I hosted an exploratory hearing in my IT Subcommittee on this subject in September, but there are more questions to ask and answers to find if we want to change the status quo. And the sooner we get this conversation started, the better.

The future of our nation depends on it.