House bills seek to strengthen U.S.-Israel cybersecurity partnership

Photo by US-Israel Military Cooperation // Access via CC 3.0

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Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, introduced two bills Thursday to strengthen joint cybersecurity research and development efforts between the U.S. and Israel.

“The United States and Israel are the two top exporters of cybersecurity technologies,” said Langevin in a statement. “Our bills will leverage the reservoirs of expertise in both nations to advance the frontiers of cyber science.”

The bills seek to formalize a grant-funding program for early-stage cyber innovation and to expand an ongoing R&D program jointly conducted by the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency and Israeli Ministry of Public Security.

“Our recent discussions with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu confirmed just how important it is that we unite forces to formulate ongoing, effective strategies to best address the rapidly evolving cyber threats faced by both of our nations. After all, cybersecurity is national security,” Ratcliffe said in a statement.

Introduction of the bills comes two months after a Congressional delegation traveled to Israel to meet with government officials regarding joint cybersecurity operations.

Langevin’s proposed R&D grant program — under the bill titled the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2016 — would rely on a peer-reviewed application process “tailored to [the] research requirements” of the Secretary of Homeland Security and reviewed by two U.S.-Israeli scientific organizations: the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, or BSF, and Binational Industrial Research and Development foundation, or BIRD.

The BSF describes its mission as “supporting collaborative research projects in a wide area of basic and applied scientific fields, for peaceful and non-profit purposes” while BIRD is more of a “matchmaking service” between Israeli and American companies that are conducting research and developing technology products.

A spokesperson for Langevin told FedScoop the funding provided by the United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act would only “be available for projects that are joint with an Israeli and an American partner.” Decisions on what constitutes such a partnership will be made by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

“Grants will be available [to applicants] across the spectrum, from academics conducting basic research in collaboration, to mature companies bringing homeland security relevant products to market. This could certainly include startups,” the spokesperson said.

The Advanced Research Partnership Act of 2016, for which Ratcliffe is sponsor, aims to add money to a standing research program between DHS and the Israeli Ministry of Public Security. Notably, the program’s expansion will now enable it to tackle cybersecurity.

In January, Israeli government officials announced the country controlled roughly 20 percent of international market share in cybersecurity products, second only to the United States.

To contact the reporter on this story: send an email via chris.bing@fedscoop.com or follow him on Twitter at @Bing_Chris. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop to get all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning at fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Congress, DHS, funding, Government IT News, Homeland Security, House of Representatives, Israel, research and development