Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee pressured Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, on Wednesday to speed up key election security measures, even as she trumpeted the adoption of important improvements ahead of November’s midterm elections. Ms. Nielsen told the senators, who are investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, that the department made significant strides in recent months working with state and local election officials to improve communication about threats and share cybersecurity resources. Those efforts include comprehensive risk assessments and cyberscans meant to identify vulnerabilities in election systems. But under questioning, Ms. Nielsen signaled that one of those undertakings, to grant full security clearances to state election officials so they could receive classified information on cybersecurity threats in a timely way, had been slow going. Of the up to 150 state election officials designated to receive clearances, only about 20 have them, she said.
In the meantime, Ms. Nielsen said, the department would share necessary threat information with relevant state officials regardless of their clearance.
Republicans and Democrats on the committee made clear that they expected more. “When I listen to your testimony, I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.
Wednesday’s session was the secretive committee’s first public hearing designed to scrutinize findings from its year-old investigation into Russia’s interference campaign. It followed the committee’s release on Tuesday of a set of recommendations for state and federal officials to shore up the ballot box.