US lawmakers have proposed a bill that would create specialized units in the National Guard for defending and responding to cyber-attacks.
According to the bill's text, these cyber-units —referred to as National Guard Cyber Civil Support Teams— will be at the disposal of state governors and will have a series of responsibilities.
One of their main roles will be to prepare and train local state private sector entities and critical infrastructure operators for future cyber-attacks by establishing and exchanging best practices, developing integrated response plans, and conducting test exercises.
National Guard Cyber Civil Support Teams will also help coordinate federal, state, and local resources during cyber-attacks, and help the private sector with response and recovery.
Last but not least, these cyber units will also help US Cyber Command communicate classified threat information to states and the private sector to prepare for or fend off cyber-attacks while they are happening.
The bill also allocates $50 million in funding to help local authorities create National Guard Cyber Civil Support Teams in each of the 50 US states, but also the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.
Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the bill on Monday, May 21, in the US Senate, while US Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) co-sponsored and introduced a similar bill, last September, in the US House of Representatives.
The bill is named the Maj. Gen. Tim Lowenberg National Guard Cyber Defenders Act— named after Major General Tim Lowenberg, who served as the Washington state Adjutant General from 1999 to 2012.
The Lowenberg Act is an attempt to standardize the pioneering work done at the Washington state National Guard 252nd Cyberspace Operations Group, which was the first National Guard cyber unit created in the US.
The US National Guard is part of the US military reserve force and is formed from US citizens or permanent residents —with or without prior military service— who are at the disposal and under the command of both local state officials and the US federal government. Being a militia reserve force, most National Guard members hold civilian jobs and participate in the Guard's activities only when called upon.