Garbarino: President must prioritize COTE plan to protect nation’s economy

The Biden administration has made zero progress on developing a Continuity of the Economy (COTE) plan, which U.S. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) called a national security imperative for the safety, security, and prosperity of the United States economy and American way of life.

The COTE plan — which would aim to ensure the renewal of the U.S. economy following a significant cyberattack or another major event that is natural or human caused — is required to be completed “not later than two years after the date of enactment of” the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which became law on Jan. 1, 2021.

“As the January 2023 deadline looms, I once again urge President Biden to work with Congress to ensure that a COTE Plan can be successfully developed, implemented, and exercised,” Rep. Garbarino said. “With threats against the United States from our foreign adversaries on the rise, we cannot afford to be caught unprepared.” 

Rep. Garbarino joined U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) in reiterating that request in a Nov. 2 letter sent to President Joe Biden. Their letter is a follow-up to one sent by Rep. Garbarino in December 2021 that he said has so far gone unanswered.

In their letter to Biden, the lawmakers wrote that the U.S. faces cyberthreats across all sectors of its economy from adversarial nations that seek to sow discord within the homeland and reduce America’s ability “to flow forces and project power.”

“Given this reality, it is unfathomable that since you received the requirement to develop a COTE plan in January 2021, there appears to be little to no progress on the implementation of this authority,” wrote Rep. Garbarino and his colleague.

Since enactment of the FY 2021 NDAA, Congress has appropriated $200,000 more than the president’s FY 2022 budget request for development of the COTE plan by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which the White House this spring officially tasked with leading development of the plan, almost 15 months after the law was passed by Congress.

However, Rep. Garbarino and his colleague wrote that there appears to be limited action taken by CISA to develop or implement the plan. 

“The execution of this law requires a whole-of-government effort led by the commander-in-chief,” they wrote. “It is unfortunate that by waiting more than a year to task CISA with completing the plan, you have ultimately set them up to fail to meet the deadline set by Congress.”

They also pointed out that as the nation’s risk advisor, CISA is uniquely positioned to analyze threats across all sectors and develop a plan of action in the event of a “black sky day.” And though the private sector owns and operates the vast majority of the nation’s critical infrastructure, CISA plays a key role in maintaining strong partnerships with those owners and operators who will be crucial to implementing the COTE plan, according to their letter. 

“The COTE plan should be developed expeditiously, implemented with industry, and exercised across sectors to ensure all stakeholders, both public and private, understand their unique role,” the members wrote. “We encourage your administration to work closely with us and our colleagues in Congress to help us understand the challenges to effectively completing the COTE plan.”