I first want to thank Senator McCain and Senator Reed for their leadership at this important time in the rest of the world. I think that's why you see this bill proceeding. But this bill will be so much stronger if we make sure that we not only defend our shores and stand by our troops, but that we also defend the security of our democracy. And I so appreciate Senator McCain and Senator Reed supporting this amendment that I have with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
And this must be included in this bill. And we are having a situation where one or two members on the other side of the aisle are not allowing it to proceed. The timing is critical. The 2018 election is only 400-some odd days away. And that's why you see us pushing this bill and doing everything we can to get it either included in the manager's package or to get a vote. This amendment, which is supported by the Freedom Caucus and in the House is led by the head of the Freedom Caucus, you may ask why.
Well, there are a lot of Republicans who would like to see states be able to keep running their own elections. I agree with that. I like the fact that we have decentralized elections. But the hacking was so real in the last election that intelligence agencies have now established that there were 21 states that there were attempts made to hack into their election software. We that this is going to happen again, and we must stand ready. We must protect our democracy. And that is why instead of having a successful hack attack in this next election, why don't we prepare ourselves so we can keep the decentralized nature of our election. So that's why you see such broad support for this amendment.
I came to the floor yesterday to fight for a vote, a simple up or down vote on the bipartisan Klobuchar-Graham amendment. I also want to thank Senator Lankford of Oklahoma, as well as Senator Harris of California for their bipartisan work and support for this amendment. This amendment has the support, but one or two members are blocking it. An amendment that has the support of the Chairman and Ranking member of the Armed Services Committee because they understand that election security is national security.
This provision simply says that it is the policy of the United States to defend against and respond to cyberattacks to our democratic system. You have to have your head in the sand if you don't know that this had been a problem, whether you're in a business and have had information stolen, whether you are someone that's been scammed or has had stuff sent to you on your e-mail, or whether you are a voter that are concerned that simply when you are exercising your freedom to vote that someone's going to come in and steal your own private information. Or worse yet, change what you did and change the result of an election.
In the words of Bruce Fein, a former Reagan official, passing the Klobuchar-Graham amendment is imperative because public confidence in the reliability of elections is a cornerstone of national security. I am stunned that we weren't simply able to include this amendment, and I still have hope that we can. I'm here to fight for this amendment so vigorously today because we need to get this done now. We need to get the authorization done now so that we can start the process of putting grants out to states so that they can upgrade their election equipment, have backup paper ballots and simply employ the best practices that we believe we need to protect ourselves from the perpetrators in Russia or in any other foreign entity. We need to make sure that our election equipment in every big city and in every small town in America, in every county is as sophisticated as the bad guys that are trying to break into it.
That is all this is about. I don't think anyone can go home to their constituents and say that they blocked this. How on earth can we pass a bill that authorizes billions of dollars in spending and refuse to simply authorize a relatively smaller amount of money to upgrade our election equipment? Predictions are that this would cost about the same amount of money that we spend on military bands every year. Bands, music bands. I love military bands. There's nothing I don't like better, and I want to keep our military bands strong. But all Senator Graham and I are saying is I think maybe the protection of our entire election, guaranteeing the freedom of Americans to pick the candidate that they chose, whether a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is just as important as the music that they hear celebrating our democracy. You can't have music celebrating our democracy if you don't have a fair democracy.
U.S. national security officials have been sounding the alarm that our voting systems will continue to be a target in the future. The idea that we would pass the Defense Authorization bill and not address this threat is mind-boggling. It is literally congressional malpractice. According to the Department of Homeland Security, now run by the Trump Administration, Russian hackers attempted to hack at least 21 states' election systems in 2016. Earlier this year we also learned that Russia launced cyberattacks against a U.S. voting software company and the e-mails of more than 100 local election officials. The former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently testified that Russia will continue to interfere in our political system. He said, "I believe Russia is now emboldened. The world is emboldened to continue such activities in the future both here and around the world, and to do so even more intensely. If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it."
Vigilance. That's what we need right now. This is not about one party or the other. I think Senator Rubio said it best when he said, "One election, it might affect one election and one candidate. The next election it's going to affect the other." No one has any idea when you're dealing with outside foreign entitites that are trying to interefere with our democracy and trying to bring down our democracy in the eyes of the world. You don't know who they're going to affect. You just know that they're trying to do it. So what do you do? You put in the necessary money in the Defense Authorization Act in authorization for that to stop this from happening.
In order to safeguard future elections, state and local officials must have the tools and resources they need to prevent hacks and safeguard election infrastructure. They don't need those resources in two years. They don't need us debating this for three years. They need these resources now. You ask the Secretary of State, Democrat and Republican, who are supporting this bill all over the country. You ask the local election officials, and they'll tell you they need it now. The next federal election in 2018 is just 419 days away. And as you know, it takes time for them to plan. It takes time for them to get the right equipment. And it takes time for them to get the information from cyber experts to make sure whether or not their systems are secure. Experts agree that if we want to improve cybersecurity ahead of the 2018 election, we must act now.
That's why I am fighting so hard for this amendment. I don't think we can just wait around and see if there's another bill that we can attach it to next summer. No. That won't work. In order to protect our election system, we need to do three things.
First, we must bring state and local election officials, cybersecurity experts, national security personnel together to provide guidance on how states can best protect themselves. These recommendations should be easily accessible so every information officer and election official in every small town can access them. As you know, a lot of states themselves still don't have the full information about the hacking in the 21 states. That's a probelm. Many state officials I've talked to say that they are still in the dark about threats to their election systems. That can't continue. We need our national security officials to be sharing information about the potential for attacks. Not the day before the election when they can't do anything, when they have a system that doesn't have paper ballot backups. No. This means creating a framework for information sharing that acts as an alarm system against cyberintruders. Our amendment would simply establish that alarm system
Second, the federal government must provide states with the resources to implement the best practices developed by states and cybersecurity experts. A meaningful effort to protect our election systems will require those resources. As I mentioned before, predictions are it's about the same amount of money that we spend every year on military bands. I think that's a bargain when you're looking to protect our democracy. I think most Americans would agree with me, Republicans or Democrats, which is why there is such widespread support for this amendment. When I say that protecting our democracy from foreign cyberattacks and legislate that Americans have the freedom to decide who they want to elect instead of someone in Russia, is probably money well spent.
Finally, we need better auditing of our elections. That means voter-verified paper ballot backup systems in every state. That is fundamental to protecting our elections and improving public confidence in the reliability of elections. Our amendment would accelerate the move to paper ballots by providing states with the resources they need to get there. The vast majority of our states simply don't have that system in place.
In short, our amendment would would help states block cyberattacks, secure voter registration logs and voter data so that people don't get their addresses in the hands of a foreign government or maybe even the data on who they voted for or what party they belong to. Upgrade election auditing procedures and create secure and useful information sharing about threats.
I am not alone in this fight. As I mentioned, Senators Graham, Lankford, and Harris are also pushing for hte Senate to do its job and include this provision. Representative Meadows, the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, and Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin introduced companion legislation in the House. Again, why is the Freedom Caucus strongly behind this bill? Well, they are behind this bill because they want to preserve states' elections. They want to preserve the rights of states to have their own elections. They are concerned enough because they have looked at the intelligence reports that this next election could blow it all up.
Are we going to look back at it again, people who hold this up? People's names will be revealed? Will they say, oops, we made a mistake? It's going to be on their hands. It's going to be on their hands. This is the moment to do it. I repeat: we need to get the authorization in place so we can get the grant money out to the states so they can upgrade their election equipment.
Dozens of former Republican national security officials are pushing for the Senate to pass this amendment. They have written op-eds, called their representatives, and worked to inform the public about the need to take action now. Michael Chertoff, who served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, published a piece this month in The Wall Street Journal calling on Congress to take action and pass the Klobuchar-Graham amendment. He noted that our amendment would address the cybersecurity challenge in a way that is "fiscally responsible, respectful of states' policy-making powers and proactive in dealing with the most pressing vulnerabilities. As I noted, Bruce Fein, the Reagan Department of Justice official, said the amendment would enormously strengthen defenses against setbacks that could compromise the integrity of elections in the U.S. and undermine legitimacy of government. A bipartisan group of former national security officials sent a letter to Senate leadership, pushing for a vote on this amendment. They noted that attacks on U.S. voting systems threaten the most basic underpinning of American self-government. And these attacks are growing in sophistication, and they are growing in scale.
As we all know, states administer elections, and if you talk to the local election official--just call any of them up--you will find that they are adamant about protecting states' rights in this area. Well, we want to help them. A bipartisan group of ten Secretaries of State sent a letter urging the Senate to pass this amendment. They want this amendment to pass because it would provide vital resources. How do you truly expect someone in a town of 1,000 people to be able to up on the latest cybersecurity attacks from some sophisticated hackers in a warehouse in Russia? Really? I don't know so.
That why while we want to keep the decentralized nature of our elections, because in some ways, one: we like it. Two: it gives us protection because it's not all in one system. We know we have to realize that in these rural towns, and in these rural areas, they are not going to have the updated, sophisticated cybersecurity protection equipment unless we tell them how they can do it and give them help to get there. The National Association of Counties, a group that unites America's 3,069 counties, also endorses this amendment. Why? Because our country--in our country, most of our elections are run by county officials.
As I noted, our decentralized system is both a strength and a weakness. Strength because we have multiple systems so all of our information isn't in one place. But American elections are increasingly an easy target because many local election systems are using election technology that is completely outdated. A survey of 274 election administrators in 28 states found that most said that their systems need upgrades. Forty-three states rely on electronic voting or tabulation systems that are at least ten years old.
Well, do you think that the Russians and these other foreign entitites that want to mess up with our democracy, that they are not aware of this, that this equipment is ten years old? I'm not telling them anything new right now. Of course they're aware of it. So what are we doing? We're just letting people in these small towns in Alaska or Iowa to sit there and wait and see if it happens. Guess what? If they get into one locality or get into one state, do you think that doesn't undermine the integrity of our whole democracy and our country? Of course it does. Local election officials who are passionate about keeping the federal government out of state elections support our amendment because it strikes the balance that our federal system demands when it comes to the administration of elections.
Depite, as I say, the strong bipartisan support for this amendment, the strong support and leadership of the Freedom Caucus, there are members in this body who are still blocking a vote. They happen to not be on my side of the aisle, so I implore my friends on the other side of the aisle to figure this out and let this either be included in the manager's package or come up for a vote, where I know it would pass. Republican and Democratic senators support this amendment. Cybersecurity experts support this amendment. Republican and Democratic former national security officials support this amendment. State nad local officials support this amendment.
So I ask you why this is not includeded? We don't have an answer. There is actually no good answer expect for a bunch of procedural gobbledygook, which of course if it had gone through the regular order and been allowed a hearing--which it was not--then it would have had the hearing. We were blocked from having a hearing, sno now, as is my right, I am bringing this before this body. The integrity of our election system is the cornerstone of our democracy. The freedom to choose our leaders and know with full confidence that those leaders would show them in free and fair elections. That is somthing that Americans have fought and died for since our country was founded. Obstructing our efforts to improve election security is an insult to everyone that has fought for freedom and those who work every day to protect our democracy. Members standing in the way of this bipartisan amendment to protect our election infrastructure are literally committing democracy malpractice. Our attitude must be to roll up our sleeves to get this done. The American people deserve nothing less.
I see my friend, Senator McCain, is here on the floor. Again, I appreciate his support and his and Senator Reed's work not only on this bill but their work to try to include this amendment in the package. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.