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Correa Defends US Interests, More Important Now Than Ever Before

January 14, 2020 by Dan McCue
Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) in an October 2016 file image. He has filed legislation to require the White House and all federal agencies to provide a Spanish-language version of their sites. "It's really just a matter of making government more transparent, more accountable, more effective for more people," Correa said. (Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Despite assurances from President Donald Trump that “Iran appears to be standing down,” after responding to the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani with a  casualty-free missile attack on U.S. bases in Iraq, intelligence and cyber security experts remain on edge.

Though it now appears unlikely that the U.S. will become embroiled in a hot war with Iran in the Middle East, the possibility of a devastating cyber attack on U.S. infrastructure or private companies whose operations are critical to people’s lives, remains all too real.

“Iran has the capability and the tendency to launch destructive attacks,” Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told The New York Times recently.

“You need to get in the head space that the next breach could be your last,” Krebs said.

Such sentiments have contributed to making Rep. Lou Correa’s drive last month to have a cyber attack amendment included in the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, particularly pertinent.

Correa’s amendment, one of three he got incorporated into the final NDAA, requires the Secretary of Defense to provide the congressional defense committees an annual report on cyber-attacks and intrusions against the Pentagon.

It focuses specifically on agents or associates of the governments of the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The 2016 presidential election exposed the dangers of cyberwarfare to the American people. For too long, too many Americans have failed to take this threat seriously. But the tides have changed,” Correa told The Well News this week.

“After last week’s events, I am deeply concerned that Iran may try to retaliate against the United States using their vast cyber warfare capabilities,” he continued. “They know they can’t take us on the battlefield, but they can do grave harm to the people of our nation without needing to set foot on our soil.”

Since the Jan. 3 U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top general, West Virginia has reported “unusual cyber activity” targeting its election systems, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott  has said the state was encountering attempted “attacks” at the rate of “about 10,000 per minute” from Iran.

Information technology staff in Las Vegas also responded to an intrusion, though the city says no data was stolen.

All told, state election officials in at least two dozen states saw suspicious cyber activity last week, although it’s unclear who was behind the efforts and no major problems were reported.

Correa explained that “attacks against the Department of Defense’s computer systems, especially their personal records and other sensitive databases, put our service members at risk in unique ways we may not be ready for.”

“By ensuring the Department of Defense is required to notify Congress of cyber attacks against their systems, we are ensuring the ability to protect our service members,” he said.

Correa’s other two amendments to the NDAA were the Supporting Children of the National Guard and Reserve Act, and the so-called STEM amendment.

The first amends the Every Student Succeeds Act to include children of National Guard and Reserve members in the Military Student Identifier program, which requires states to identify students from military families to ensure that schools know which students have parents in the military to help accommodate any unique needs.

The second requires the “National Security Commission on Defense Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Institutions,” to evaluate the effectiveness of the Department of Defense in attracting and retaining STEM students from covered institutions for the Department’s programs on emerging capabilities and technologies.

“I am pleased with this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” Correa said. “While it is not a perfect bill, it addresses numerous areas of concern while ensuring our men and women in uniform have the support and supplies they need to get the job done.”

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