March 23, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, pressed U.S. Navy Admiral John Aquilino, nominee to be Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, on the importance of cyberpreparedness as foreign adversaries continue hacking U.S. networks and critical infrastructure. In response to Senator King’s questioning during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Aquilino acknowledged that he shares Senator King’s urgency and committed to expand tests within the Defense Department to determine the strength of key national security systems.
“I can guarantee you that at this very moment hundred if not thousands of very smart software engineers and hackers are in China attempting to figure out how to compromise our command and control systems, our IRS systems, our force projection software,” said Senator King in today’s hearing. “I cannot stress more to you the urgency of being prepared for this, all of our preparations, all of our money, all of our systems are useless if we can’t communicate with them or, on the other hand, if they are rendered inert by a cyberattack. I hope you will see this as an extremely high priority. You should be having people trying to hack your own systems to determine how safe they really are.”
Later in the hearing, Senator King questioned Admiral Aquilino on whether or not the U.S. should accede to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Treaty – a question he raised to U.S. Air Force General Glen VanHerck, Commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command last week. The exchange is below.
SENATOR KING: “You mentioned what the Chinese are doing in the South China Sea in terms of claims. The Russians are doing similar things in the Arctic. Do you believe it is in the national interest for this country to enter into the Law of the Sea treaty? "
ADMIRAL AQUILINO: “Yes Senator, I do.”
SENATOR KING: “I’ve asked every flag officer that has appeared before this Committee that question just pretty much regularly for the last 8 years and I’ve never got a negative answer. Why do you think it is important that we be a part of this treaty structure?”
ADMIRAL AQUILINO: “Senator, there are really two main reasons. Number one, as the group gets together it would certainly be beneficial if we had a seat at the table when there were discussions occurring as it applied to potential adjustments and the interpretations of those international laws. The second reason is that it puts us in an increased position of credibility – we adhere to the UNCLOS treaty in our operations and it would make our position much stronger if we were signators.”
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, Senator King is recognized as one of Congress’s leading experts on cyberdefense and a strong advocate for a forward-thinking cyberstrategy that emphasizes layered cyberdeterrence. He voted in favor of the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes 25 bipartisan cybersecurity recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. The legislation became law earlier this year after Senator King and the overwhelming majority of his colleagues voted to override President Trump’s veto.
The CSC was established by statute in the 2019 NDAA, officially launched in April 2019, and will continue to execute its statutory mission through December 2021. The Commissioners convened nearly every Monday that Congress was in session for a year, and its staff conducted more than 400 engagements, drawing upon the expertise of corporate leaders, federal, state and local officials, academics, and cybersecurity experts. The meetings and the ensuing report sought to strengthen America’s posture in cyberspace and identify opportunities to improve our national preparedness to defend ourselves against cyberattacks.
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Co-Chair of the U.S. Senate Arctic Caucus, Senator King is an advocate for Maine’s interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic region. Earlier this year, Senator King applauded the U.S. Navy’s recently-released Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic – the publication represents a forward-thinking approach to achieving U.S. priorities in the Arctic, and stresses Maine’s critical strategic importance in the region. In 2019, Senator King introduced the Arctic Naval Focus Act of 2019 with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a bill that would direct the federal government to recognize the importance of the Arctic region to the United States’ national and economic security interests. He also invited Senator Sullivan on his monthly Inside Maine podcast to discuss U.S. military challenges and opportunities in the Arctic.