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Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill

The Hill logo The Hill 12/11/2019 Maggie Miller
Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill © iStock Legislation to protect electric grid from cyberattacks added to massive defense bill

Legislation to protect the nation's electric grid against cyberattacks has been added to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is slated for a House vote Wednesday evening.

The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act, which was included in 2020 NDAA, would help eliminate vulnerabilities in the electric grid by establishing a two-year pilot program within the National Laboratories.

The program's recommendations would then require a national strategy, crafted by federal agencies and the energy industry, to secure the grid against cyberattacks.

The Senate is expected to quickly send the NDAA to the White House for President Trump's signature after Wednesday night's House vote.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that he was pleased with the defense policy bill and planned to sign it into law "immediately" once he receives it.

The electric grid bill has bipartisan support in both chambers. It was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July.

"The energy grid powers our financial transactions, communications networks, healthcare services and more - so if this critical infrastructure is compromised by a hacker, these building blocks of American life are at risk," Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), one of the two primary Senate sponsors of the bill along with Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), said in a statement to The Hill.

There have been growing concerns this year that the energy grid could be attacked, particularly following the first successful cyberattack on an electric utility in the Western part of the U.S.

The annual Worldwide Threat Assessment compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that both Russia and China have the capability to successfully target critical infrastructure, such as the electric grid, and cause "temporary disruptive effects."

The dangers of cyberattacks on the grid were further highlighted by a draft report sent to Trump this week by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council.

The report called for "bold action" to be taken to combat increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure, including the energy grid, emphasizing that "escalating cyber risks to America's critical infrastructures present an existential threat to continuity of government, economic stability, social order, and national security."

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