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Cyber attack may be new reason to call National Guard

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A house committee is considering a bill to allow the governor to call in the National Guard in the case of a cyber attack. 

Proponents say the authority would allow the state to respond if critical infrastructure were hacked, but some committee members worried it gives broad new powers to the governor.

Greg Wilz, director of the Homeland Security Division of the Department of Emergency Services, presented the idea to the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. 

"In today's world, (cyber attack) is becoming a real threat. We see it each and every day in various sectors of business, industry and government," Wilz said. 

Wilz said the recommendation came out of the cyber security task force report released in October. He noted that the National Guard is launching a cyber network defense team for North Dakota, South Dakota and Colorado, which the governor could call upon.

"We're gonna have a unique capability within our National Guard that should something happen that could be at some level instantly catastrophic," Wilz said. "We would have some additional resources at our call."

Currently, the law says the governor can call in the guard if "insurrection, invasion, tumult, riot, breach of the peace or imminent danger thereof" occurs.

Rep. Christopher Olson, R-West Fargo, noted in the meeting that the legislation does not define cyber attack, leaving it to the governor's discretion.

"We would be putting our trust in the executive to determine at what level of a cyber attack he's going to call up the National Guard and what purpose," he said. 

Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said he was in favor of the bill and allowing the governor and his or her cabinet to decide if it's a true threat.

"I think it's pretty hard to be specific, because we haven't had one of these yet. But who knows what form it's going to take?" Kasper asked.

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at caroline.grueskin@bismarcktribune.com

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