In the wake of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report encouraging the Departments of Education and Homeland Security (DHS) to update K-12 cybersecurity guidance, several Democrat senators have written to both agencies urging them to heed GAO’s recommendations, and establish critical infrastructure council structures to advance the issue.

GAO issued a report last week that reviewed cybersecurity for K-12 schools to understand the extent that Federal agencies are helping schools protect again cyberattacks. The Education Department’s current K-12 cybersecurity plan was established in 2010.

The letter, led by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and co-signed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Jacky Rosen D-Nev., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., “strongly” urges DHS and the Education Department not to just implement GAO’s recommendations, but to also “go beyond those recommendations and establish a Government Coordinating Council and a Subsector Coordinating Council for the Education Facilities critical infrastructure subsector.”

To update the Education Facilities subsector-specific plan and determine if subsector-specific guidance is needed, the senators said they strongly agreed with GAO’s recommendation to work with DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

“These councils would help promote better coordination between Federal, state, and local entities and private sector groups that support K-12 schools, and provide a cohesive foundation upon which the Department of Education and CISA can better support the cybersecurity of our country’s K-12 schools, as demonstrated by the successes of the Election Infrastructure subsector and its coordinating councils,” wrote the senators.

Additionally, the senators requested that DHS, CISA, and Education Department arrange a staff-level briefing by Dec. 17, 2021 to discuss GAO’s findings and recommendations, and gather thoughts on establishing the councils.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.