GAO report urges DHS to publish key security plans ahead of 2020 elections

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to “urgently” publish two key election security plans in order to ensure the security of the 2020 presidential elections, a report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Thursday found.

The report found that DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is “not well-positioned to execute a nationwide strategy for securing election infrastructure prior to the start of the 2020 election cycle” due to the delayed release of two reports on how the agency plans to coordinate election security operations.  

GAO recommended CISA “urgently” finalize an upcoming strategic plan and an operations plan for securing election infrastructure, and that CISA document how it plans to incorporate lessons learned from the 2018 midterms elections into protecting the 2020 elections. 


The government watchdog agency noted that DHS had “concurred” with these recommendations, and that DHS had promised that both plans would be finalized by Feb. 14. They were meant to be submitted by last month, but according to GAO were delayed due to “reorganization” within CISA. 

According to the GAO report, CISA’s “#Protect 2020” strategic plan will focus on efforts to protect election infrastructure against foreign interference, support political campaigns, raise public awareness about foreign interference threats and share intelligence about potential threats to elections.

DHS wrote in a letter included in the GAO report that both plans will “provide a strategic overview and operational/coordinating framework to guide CISA’s operations in support of the 2020 general elections, and the primaries leading up to the general election.”

CISA, which was formally created by a bill signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2018, is one of the key agencies that works with state and local election officials to ensure the security of elections. 

CISA Director Chris Krebs identified election security as one of the top five “operational priorities” as part of a formal report laying out CISA’s “strategic intent” published last year.

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