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WASHINGTON

House passes two Katko bills to bolster homeland security

Congress Homeland Security

Rep. John Katko questions witnesses during a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing in 2020.

Two cybersecurity bills authored by U.S. Rep. John Katko were part of a package of homeland security-related bills that were approved by the House of Representatives this week. 

The House approved the Domains Critical to Homeland Security Act, which Katko introduced in the aftermath of cybersecurity attacks against U.S. businesses. The legislation would allow the Department of Homeland Security to identify and evaluate economic and homeland security assets that, if disrupted, could pose a threat to the country's security. 

In the bill, critical domains are defined as "critical infrastructure and other associated industries, technologies, and intellectual property, or any combination thereof, that are essential to U.S. economic security." 

Many businesses and industries have been targeted by hackers. Colonial Pipeline was the victim of a ransomware attack in May. Another ransomware attack affected more than 1,000 businesses that use the same information technology software. 

The House also passed Katko's DHS Industrial Control Systems Capabilities Enhancement Act. He considers this one of the most significant cybersecurity bills to advance in Congress. 

According to the bill's summary, it would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the Department of Homeland Security to "maintain certain capabilities to identify and address threats to industrial control systems." 

"As I've said from day one, we must continue bolstering CISA's authorities to defend our federal networks and the nation's critical infrastructure from cyber threats," said Katko, the ranking Republican member on the House Homeland Security Committee. "Already this year, the nation has confronted numerous major attempts to compromise federal and private-sector networks.

"From the shortage of (personal protective equipment) supplies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to the real-world consequences of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, Americans saw the very real impact homeland security has on their daily lives. These efforts approved by the House today will work to protect and secure the vital components that underpin our daily lives." 

Among the other bills that the House passed on Tuesday: Legislation to establish a $500 million cybersecurity grant program for state and local governments. This is a measure Katko helped introduce in the last Congress and co-sponsored earlier this year. 

A separate bill co-sponsored by Katko would require the Transportation Security Administration to examine its preparedness for public health threats against transportation systems. 

"I commend our colleagues in the House for their support of these commonsense homeland security provisions and appreciate the strong leadership from our members," Katko said. "With the threat landscape rapidly evolving, I am committed to strong partnership with (House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson) to secure the nation." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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