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Yellowstone County’s Disaster & Emergency Services Coordinator K. C. Williams has received a letter from the Department of Military Affairs for Montana announcing that his application for a grant to improve cyber security for Yellowstone County has been approved.

Official notification will probably not come until about September, said Williams, but at least tentatively the Senior Advisory Committee and the Homeland Security Advisor has selected Yellowstone County’s Cyber Security project for inclusion in Montana’s application to the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA for fiscal 2020. (Emergency services in Montana operate under the auspices of the Department of Military Affairs.)

The $75,000 grant will allow the county to make the needed improvements in a more complete, holistic approach than the phases that the county would otherwise have had to pursue. The end results will be much better, said Williams, and it won’t have to be funded by Yellowstone County taxpayers.

A few months ago, Jeff Slavick, Director of Information Technology in Yellowstone County, submitted a proposal to County Commissioners to begin the process of updating the county’s cyber security which he said was woefully inadequate. Upon learning this, Williams pointed out that improving cyber security of government agencies was a high priority of Homeland Security and they were making grants available.

Williams submitted an application for Slavick’s proposal. Some security the county has to provide by law, but much of it is just matter of good stewardship.

“It is just a better idea to be more secure” with all of the county’s electronic documents and data storage, said Williams, explaining that the county interacts with a lot of government agencies, as well as the civilian population, all of which are subject to potential cyber threats.

The grant will probably have an effective date of October 1. Williams said that he expects that the federal government will require that the project be completed within a year from the effective date.