Updated: Oct 21, 2022
EXPERT PERSPECTIVE – The White House’s recent announcement of a Strategic High-Level Dialogue on Technology with Israel and the Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration that was issued as President Biden visited the region last month, are meant to significantly improve bilateral collaboration on cybersecurity but what do they really mean?
The Joint Declaration includes commitments to an “operational cyber exchange” and to combating cybercrime while the Dialogue on Technology explains that the project will address key global challenges that include pandemic preparedness, climate change, implementation of artificial intelligence, and trusted technology ecosystems.
These initiatives build on similar efforts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and its Israeli counterpart, the Israel National Cyber Directorate. The two agencies recently announced a new bilateral cyber program to be housed within the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, a longstanding program that facilitates collaboration in a range of fields, including homeland security.
The new BIRD Cyber program invites participants to partner with companies and institutions to submit proposals that would improve the cyber resilience of critical infrastructure. Qualifying projects will receive a grant to address cybersecurity issues ranging from piloting “resilience centers” for small and medium enterprises to providing real-time risk assessments of critical infrastructure.
This scientific and technological cooperation with Israel and other allies improves Washington’s defense technologies and enhances the abilities of U.S. partners to boost their capabilities amid increased cyber risks. The new bilateral initiatives also signal unity in addressing cyber threats from shared adversaries like Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea. Information sharing and capacity building programs likewise help the global community enforce responsible state behavior in cyberspace.
President Biden specifically warned last month, about an increase in malicious Russian cyber activities targeting the U.S. and its allies and partners due to “unprecedented economic costs” imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. He emphasized the need for “creating innovative public-private partnerships” to address the threat to the critical infrastructures of both America and Israel.
While these measures demonstrate Washington’s willingness to work with allies and partners in the region, Congress can further strengthen America’s commitment by taking legislative action.
For example, the U.S.-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act — authorized in section 1551 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22 NDAA) — establishes a bilateral cyber cooperation program that provides grants for cybersecurity research and development. Congress should fully fund this program, which both builds on existing U.S.-Israel cyber cooperation programs such as BIRD’s and fosters innovative solutions to protect U.S. critical infrastructure.
Robust bilateral cooperation with trusted allies will ensure that the U.S. maintains a competitive edge as adversaries enhance their malicious cyber capabilities. Fully resourcing cooperative cyber defense programs should be a priority for Congress and the Biden administration.
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Rear Adm. (Ret.) Mark Montgomery is a senior director at the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he is also a senior fellow. He directs CSC 2.0, which works to implement the recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission, where he previously served as executive director. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCMontgomery
Jiwon Ma is a program analyst at CCTI, where she contributes to the CSC 2.0 project. Follow her on Twitter @jiwonma_92.