DHS De-Prioritizes Foreign Interference Ahead of 2020 Elections

Russian election hacking

A new report revealed that two federal task forces committed to securing the 2020 elections lost resources and personnel–both budgets drastically reduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Both task forces were part of the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) and were formed in response to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“One of the task forces is now half the size it was a few months ago… [t]he other task force also shrank significantly shortly after the midterms… before its members produced a thorough assessment of what happened during the 2018 elections,” reported The Daily Beast.

Both task forces initially reported directly to CISA director Chris Krebs, but have since been moved further down the agency’s chain of command. Krebs testified before the House Homeland Security Committee earlier this week to discuss his agency’s election security efforts, but didn’t directly address the task forces or their apparent reduction in staff, focusing more on securing elections systems.

“DHS goals for the 2020 election cycle include improving the efficiency and effectiveness of election audits, continued incentivizing the patching of election systems, and working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the states to develop cybersecurity profiles utilizing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure,” Krebs testified.

While Krebs has stated that the CISA was “doubling down” efforts to get ready for the 2020, he also pointed to statements by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Acting Attorney General that there was no evidence of successful election interference in the 2018 elections.

The scope and impact of Russian interference on the 2016 presidential election

has caused widespread concern over preparations for 2020, with at least on DHS official referring to it was a potential “perfect storm” for future state actors.

“[I]t’s very curious why the task forces were demoted in the bureaucracy and the leadership has not committed resources to prepare for the 2020 election,” said the official to the Daily Beast.