Garcia announces bipartisan ANCHOR Act on cybersecurity

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News release 

Reps. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Haley Stevens, D-Michigan, as well as Sens. Alex Padilla, D-California, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to facilitate cybersecurity and telecommunications upgrades for the 17 oceanographic vessels in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet.  

The Accelerating Networking, Cyberinfrastructure, and Hardware for Oceanic Research (ANCHOR) Act would require the National Science Foundation to plan improvements for these critical oceanographic research vessels, according to a release from Garcia’s office.  

The fleet includes three vessels in California, which recently discovered extensive World War II-era munitions on the sea floor at the San Pedro DDT dumpsite. 

“These ships and their submersibles play a central role in important priorities such as exploring our ocean, studying climate change, and improving national security,” the release said.  

First commissioned decades ago, these ships are in desperate need of new infrastructure and maintenance, especially with naval cyberattacks from Russia and China on the rise, the release said. 

“The ARF is critical to America’s national security and environmental research,” Garcia said in the release. “And I’m proud to take this bipartisan step toward better ensuring the safe, secure, and effective operation of our research vessels. These vessels are crucial to a variety of our national interests, from international competition with China to the collection of environmental research. This bill is only the first step, and I look forward to our continued bipartisan work to improve the ARF.”  

“The U.S. Academic Research Fleet is a global leader in performing groundbreaking oceanographic research, which is critical for navigating rising climate threats,” Padilla said in the release. “But with increasing cyberattacks on these vessels, we urgently need to upgrade crucial cybersecurity and telecommunications infrastructure. This cost-effective, bipartisan solution will lead to better science and better conditions for our crew members while saving money by allowing vessel repairs in real time.”  

 “The U.S. Academic Research Fleet plays a critical role in advancing our understanding of what is happening not just in our oceans, but in our Great Lakes as well. The ANCHOR Act will ensure that the ARF has the required cyber and telecommunication infrastructure to carry out the fleet’s mission to protect our oceans, coastal communities, and the Great Lakes in our changing climate,” Stevens said in the release. 

“Our research vessels play a key role in ensuring American security,” Sullivan said in the release. “Both these research vessels and shore-based maritime research institutions have experienced Chinese cyberattacks. This bill is a step forward in bolstering both the integrity of the data collected by these institutions and the resiliency of the Academic Research Fleet, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks Research Vessel Sikuliaq homeported in Seward.”  

Specifically, the ANCHOR Act would require NSF to issue a report within one year that details a budget and plan for cybersecurity and internet upgrades across the 17 research vessels in the fleet, which are owned by NSF, the Office of Naval Research, and U.S. universities and laboratories. The report would outline costs for equipment, training, personnel and methods to minimize spending. A second report to Congress two years later would detail progress in implementing the plan. 

The ANCHOR Act is endorsed by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System, the University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Oregon State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, University of Minnesota Duluth Large Lakes Observatory, Louisiana University Marine Consortium, University of Miami, University of Hawai’i, University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

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