Cantwell, Wicker To Commerce Secretary Raimondo: Strengthen American Cybersecurity Defenses

Senators: “We urge you to take swift action on this important work.”

July 28, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) today wrote to Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urging her to robustly confront growing threats to American cybersecurity and privacy. The letter follows a hearing that Chair Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker convened on cybersecurity threats to America’s critical energy infrastructure.

“Cybersecurity threats are growing and evolving, so the federal response must do so as well.  To ensure the safety and security of the American people and economy, DOC and NIST must be part of the solution,” the Senators wrote. “The President’s Budget Request to level-fund NIST cybersecurity programs, while requesting significant increases across the agency, is insufficient to meet the need.”

The letter particularly urged the Commerce Department to implement and appropriately resource Congressional direction on growing the cybersecurity workforce and demonstrating new cyber-protection capabilities, including to more quickly respond to cyberattacks. 

“Reliance on cyber-enabled systems provides an attractive target for U.S. adversaries and cybercriminals,” the Senators wrote. “Separate threat assessments by the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security ranked cyberattacks as an acute threat to government at all levels as well as to the private sector.”

Chair Cantwell has been warning for years about America’s vulnerability to an attack of this kind—even issuing this warning during a 2017 Energy and Natural Resources hearing“There is the issue of cybersecurity that keeps me up at night, thinking about potential hacks from Russia or foreign actors, as we see large-scale attacks happening in other places. If we do not make the necessary investments to prevent, defend against and minimize the impact of these cyberattacks, our enemies may succeed in causing us a widespread blackout or devastation to our economy.”


Earlier this year, Chair Cantwell wrote to Biden DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas highlighting concerns over ambiguity in cyber-related security standards.  The Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security today announced their intent to provide a clearer security baseline for critical infrastructure, consistent with the new National Security Memorandum on Improving Cybersecurity for Critical Infrastructure Control Systems.


Last Congress, Ranking Member Wicker authored the HACKED Act and CYBER LEAP Act, which were included in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and signed into law. Senator Cantwell co-sponsored the HACKED Act, along with Senators Thune (R-SD) and Rosen (D-NV). These laws will expand the cybersecurity workforce and establish prize-based contests designed to increase collaboration between the public and private sectors.


You can read Senator Cantwell and Senator Wicker’s full letter HERE.