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By Julio Rivera,

With a potential government shutdown on the table that would begin at the stroke of midnight on October 1st, both chambers of Congress were able to reach consensus Friday on a temporary spending package that will keep the federal government running through mid-December.  

With an ever-so-critical midterm election roughly 5 weeks away, it can be assumed that neither party wanted to wear the stain of a shutdown, especially one that would have led to the furlough of scores of voters that hold the power to voice their displeasure with the party they perceive to hold the blame. 

Within the deal that was struck to avoid shutdown was a whopping additional $12 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine. As the total amount of US assistance for Ukraine races towards $100 Billion, new polling shows that a large percentage of Americans are beginning to tire of the US government’s financial and military support of Ukraine and want to see increased diplomatic efforts to end the war if taxpayer funded aid is to continue.  

Also, in the shutdown averting deal was a critical $1 billion in heating and utility assistance for low-income families that comes just as summer turns to autumn, $20 million to address the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as a five-year reauthorization for Food and Drug Administration user fees. 

But, despite the immediate respite on some items of interest, scores of issues that are of particular importance to the security of millions of Americans, were effectively punted to mid-November. At the top of that list is the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  

Leadership in the upper chamber however, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), offered on Thursday that the debate process for the bill will begin in mid-October. “While we have accomplished a great deal so far, more than any Congress in recent memory and we all should be proud of what we accomplished, we still have much to do and many important bills to consider. Proceeding to the NDAA will save us valuable time, enabling us to get more done. But members should be prepared for an extremely, underline extremely, busy agenda in the last two months of this Congress,” Schumer said Thursday. 

Many in the Senate, including chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), were “pushing hard” to get the NDAA on the floor before a planned recess that should be occurring ahead of November’s midterm elections. In mid-June, SASC advanced its $847 billion version of the NDAA out of committee, after the adoption of a $45 billion topline increase during a closed-door markup of the bill. The $840 Billion House version of the bill was voted 329 to 101 to pass in mid-July. 

Among the more important items included in the legislation are several matters related to American cybersecurity. America, like most of the rest of the world, is seriously lacking in qualified cyber personnel. The shortages have been felt as of late and not only in America, as Iranian attacks, carried out by government sponsored Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups, have affected nations around the globe including Albania and Turkey. 

The already passed House version of the bill includes a provision that establishes term limits for leadership at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) under the CISA Leadership Act. Should the provision make it to the Senate version of the bill, officials appointed to lead the agency will serve five-year terms, in an effort to see their term durations extended beyond presidencies. The amendment also specifies that the appointment process will require the sitting president to appoint new CISA directors “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”  

Also included in the House version of the NDAA, is a promising provision that would direct the Veterans Affairs secretary to establish a new pilot course for veterans and their spouses around new cybersecurity training programs. The programs would include coursework that would qualify for college credits that can be applied towards associate or baccalaureate degrees. Additionally, new virtual learning opportunities and performance-based assessments will be created that would ultimately lead to federal work-based learning opportunities and programs. These kinds of provisions, that help the tragically underserved American Veteran community, should always be supported in a bipartisan manner. 

The rise in threats like ransomware and browser hijackers will only continue to grow in 2023. For this reason, and countless others, politicians on both sides must recognize the importance of passing a robust NDAA with global instability only worsening as the Ukrainian conflict rages. 

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by numerous websites and he is regularly seen on National and International news programming. 


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