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DHS hires former EAC chairman to tackle election security

voting scrutiny (Bakhtiar Zein/Shutterstock.com) 

A month after being passed over for another term on the Election Assistance Commission, Matthew Masterson will be heading to the Department of Homeland Security to tackle election security issues.

Masterson will serve as a senior cybersecurity advisor within the National Protection and Programs Directorate within DHS. Acting NPPD undersecretary Christopher Krebs announced the move in a March 26 statement.

"There are few who have Matt's experience working with all levels of government and the private sector to protect our nation's election systems," said Krebs. "His wealth of experience and depth of knowledge make him highly respected on both sides of the aisle."

Masterson was recently passed over for another term as EAC commissioner. Commissioners at the EAC are nominated by the president, but the House and Senate majority and minority leaders are responsible for making recommendations.

At the time, a source told FCW that Masterson was aware the move was coming at least a week before the news broke and that he didn't know who had made the call to go with another candidate. Reuters reported the decision was made at the behest of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

A DHS official told FCW on background that Masterson started at his position March 26, and will be involved with the work of the Election Task Force, which coordinates election security efforts across DHS and the interagency.

Masterson served as rotating chair of the EAC for 2017 and is credited by those inside and outside the agency with helping to push election security and voting machine security, particularly in the wake of the 2016 election.

His tenure as chairman overlapped with the EAC's work in tandem with the National Institute for Standards and Technology to update voluntary voting system certification guidelines. Those guidelines, which are expected to be finalized later this year, will set the bar for security as state and local governments procure and deploy the next generation of voting machines.

In a February 2018 interview, Masterson said the process to build those guidelines was intentionally done in as public a way as possible to telegraph developments around paper records, auditability and accessibility and provide states with a head start on purchasing decisions.

"[It already] has had an impact because election officials have participated, voting system manufacturers have participated, advocates and academics have participated, and so the entire community, in engaging in these discussions, has a feel and a recognition for where this is going," said Masterson.

In addition to his expertize on election security issues, Masterson spent the past year working closely with DHS officials after the federal government designated election infrastructure as critical infrastructure and has already built relationships with many state and local administrators in the lead up to the 2018 mid-term elections.

Krebs made it clear that DHS -- which has at times encountered skepticism and pushback from state and local officials worried about a federal takeover of the election system – will draw on Masterson's background.

"Matt is one of the most equipped to advise on this non-partisan issue and will be an asset to the organization," said Krebs. "In a time where technology is constantly evolving, it is more important than ever that DHS maintains productive and trusted relationships with our partners."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at djohnson@fcw.com, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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