Despite being given two years to develop a plan for responding to cyber catastrophe, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hasn’t said anything to indicate there’s been progress.
The U.S. government has had plans in place for years on how to remain operational in the event of a large-scale disaster and Congress directed the Biden administration two years ago to develop a similar plan to keep the economy running in the event of a national cyberattack.
On Tuesday, Rep. Andrew R. Garbarino, R-N.Y., asked DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for an update on the “continuity of the economy,” or COTE, plan during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, according to The Washington Post.
“I’ll look forward to following up on that for you and responding swiftly,” Mayorkas said. “I’ll have to look into that, where the report that is due to you is.”
Tuesday marked the most recent time Mayorkas had been asked to report on the plan’s progress; Garbarino and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., asked the secretary and other administration officials the same question in a letter two weeks ago.
With the deadline Congress set fast approaching in less than two months, the Biden administration has not said one word about it.
In his letter, Garbarino wrote that the White House had given the task of developing the plan to DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) this past spring.
The decision to task CISA with the job was “pretty much setting the agency up for failure,” coming 15 months after Congress originally asked the administration to take action, Garbarino said.
Established by Congress to study cyber policy questions and issue recommendations, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission came up with the idea to develop the COTE plan.
“We recommend that the government institute a Continuity of the Economy plan to ensure that we can rapidly restore critical functions across corporations and industry sectors, and get the economy back up and running after a catastrophic cyberattack,” the March 2020 final report said. “Such a plan is a fundamental pillar of deterrence — a way to tell our adversaries that we, as a society, will survive to defeat them with speed and agility if they launch a major cyberattack against us.”
As the ranking member of the Homeland Security panel’s cybersecurity subcommittee, Garbarino asked CISA Director Jen Easterly in December about what work had been done on the plan but did not receive an answer then either, according to the Post. Congress has given CISA a $200,000 budget to help develop the plan, according to Garbarino.
“As the Great Power Competition with Russia and China continues to unfold on the world stage, the United States faces cyberthreats across all sectors of our economy from adversarial nations who seek to sow discord within the Homeland and reduce our ability to flow forces and project power,” the Empire State congressman wrote. “Given this reality, it is unfathomable that since you received the requirement to develop a COTE plan in January 2021, there appears to be little to no progress on the implementation of this authority.”
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