States need more money for election security and it’s not important where the money comes from.
That’s the message from the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s, who spoke to reporters at his agency’s cybersecurity summit in National Harbor, Md. Sept. 19.
“I don’t care where the money comes from,” said Krebs, whose organization is charged with protecting critical infrastructure from cyberattacks and who works with states to secure elections. “We have to address the risk in the system now.”
Krebs said there are three “buckets” where states need financial help.
First, state and local governments need funding to address “immediate risk" and need to move to paper ballot back-ups. Krebs said progress has been made in this area and of the states that did not have a paper ballot backup in 2018, now, "they’re all moving towards having a paper ballot back-up.”
But he warned that lack of funding was going to result in “a state or two” not having such contingency plans in time for 2020.
“In general, the market has already shifted toward some kind of paper ballot back-up,” Krebs said. “So much so that the demand from states has influenced what the vendors are actually selling.”
The second bucket of funding, and perhaps the most important, Krebs said is that states need consistent funding, “whether it comes from their state or the federal government.” States need something they can set their “budgeting clocks by,” Krebs said. A consistent cash flow will allows state offices to hire and plan to hire more staff.
“If it’s these inconsistent mass injections of cash every 10 years or eight years, that creates some disruption in the state budgeting process,” Krebs said. “If the federal government’s going to play a role in this space, we have to be dependable partners. And so that’s the next part of this.”
His comments came shortly after the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill that included $250 million for election security. That amount is far less than a House bill that includes $600 million for election security.
“I’m pleased that, on a bipartisan basis, the Senate Appropriations Committee came to an agreement to provide $250 million in election security grants that will allow states to replace outdated election machinery and invest in cybersecurity,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a statement.
The third bucket on Krebs’ wish list is an “innovation fund," which would allow CISA or states to fund pilot programs to better protect election infrastructure.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who also spoke at the summit on a panel with Krebs, echoed the calls for additional election security funding.
“We would never make protecting our grid a partisan issue, we would never make protecting our financial system a partisan issue. It is insane if we make protection of democracy a partisan issue,” Warner said.