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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

Study: Fear of debt keeps Latinos out of college

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fear of never being able to pay off school loans is keeping many young Latinos in the U.S. from going to college or completing a degree, according to a report published in September.

State of play: Latinos tend to have more difficulty repaying school debt than white student borrowers, according to Federal Reserve data, at the same time that they need more loans in order to afford tuition.

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Scoop: Biden administration objects to Israeli settlements plan

Israeli PM Naftali Bennett (L) meets with Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP via Getty

The Biden administration has privately protested to the Israeli government over its plan to approve the planning and construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: The approvals for new homes in the settlements will be the first since President Biden assumed office, and come after Biden and his top aides personally pressed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to restrain settlement activity and decrease the number of new housing units.

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Pentagon warns of ISIS-K capabilities outside Afghanistan

The site of an airstrike conducted by the U.S. against a planner for ISIS-K in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

U.S. intelligence believes ISIS-K has the "intent" to eventually launch attacks outside of Afghanistan and could be capable of doing so "somewhere between six or 12 months," a top Pentagon official told senators Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that terrorist groups will reconstitute and potentially pose a renewed threat to the U.S. homeland.