Jun 7, 2018

Turf war: DOD v. National Guard on election security

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would provide $50 million to stand up National Guard cyber units in every state to prevent and respond to election security issues. But there's a glitch: the Defense Department is somewhat resistant to shifting its authority to states.

Why it matters: This is the latest example of the age-old fight in election security — that states should run their own elections, but much of the resources and authority lie with the feds.

The buzz:

  • "It’s kind of a turf war between the National Guard and the DOD," a House staff member told Axios.
  • “There’s some concern over who’s going to control this,” a spokesman for the National Guard Association of the U.S. tells Axios, whose organization is supportive of the bill.
  • "The DOD’s job is to be conservative. It’s Congress’ job to push for new ideas," Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose bill on the issue preceded the Senate's, told Axios. He said at the end of the day, though, "everybody wants the same thing," which is more secure elections.

The arguments for it: The bill's authors, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Joe Manchin, and other advocates point out that the National Guard is already working on other critical infrastructure issues — including election security — in the states. As a result, the National Guard is uniquely familiar with the technological landscape that it would need to protect when it comes to election security, said Kilmer.

Why the DOD might be resistant: Standing up state-backed cyber units would naturally pull some resources away from the DOD.

  • “If there’s the Army and the Air Force paying for their training and equipment they’d like to have these people at their disposal when they need them,” the spokesman for the National Guard Association of the U.S. tells Axios. And yet the state perspective is, “this infrastructure is just as important."
  • It's unclear right now whether the DOD resistance spells an impasse for this legislation.

Details: Based on language currently in the House National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the DOD would study some of the cyber units that are currently working on some states' election security — like in West Virginia.

  • Yes, but: A trial run of the program wasn't approved in the NDAA this year. While Kilmer said he wanted to "see how it goes, see where there might be issues in rollout and capability" in 10 states, a pilot was rebuffed in the rules committee.
  • Funding: The bill's funding would likely only initially stand up these state units, but would not be enough to sustain them long-term. That's because the cyber threat landscape will change rapidly over the next five years, according to a Senate aide, and new resources will be needed to ensure National Guard personnel are trained on the latest technologies.
  • Training: It will take time to get up and running. "These [cyber] units are in varying stages of operational readiness," the spokesperson for the National Guard said.

Bottom line: While the National Guard wouldn't comment on whether it supports the pending legislation, a spokesperson told Axios it would work with the DOD and other partners to "develop or integrate any required unique training and procedures to help National Guard cyber forces contribute to the cybersecurity mission."

Go deeper

Judge rules against Trump policy limiting public comment on energy leasing

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday overturned a 2018 Trump administration directive that sought to speed up energy leases on public land by limiting the amount of time the public could comment.

Why it matters: U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush's decision voids almost a million acres of leases in the West, according to The Washington Post. It's a victory for environmentalists, who tried to block the change as part of an effort to protect the habitat of the at-risk greater sage grouse.

  • The ruling invalidated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and affected 104,688 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat, per The Associated Press.
  • Leases in greater sage-grouse habitat will return to allowing 30 days of public comment and administrative protest.

The big picture: From Axios' Amy Harder, this is the latest in a long and convoluted list of regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration is pursuing on environmental rules that courts are, more often than not, rebutting. With Congress gridlocked on these matters, expect the courts to be the default way Trump's agenda faces checks (unless, of course, a Democrat wins the White House this November).

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Frequent hand washing can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known preventative for COVID-19 and influenza.

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.
Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - Sports