March 25, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, questioned General Paul Nakasone, Commander of the United States Cyber Command on current policies in place to focus on “defending forward” through cyberdeterrence strategies that aim to prevent attacks by imposing a clear cost to adversaries. In response, General Nakasone agreed with Senator King and laid out the importance of preventive measures by implementing a cyberstrategy to alter the risk calculous of foreign adversaries and deter future attacks.
SENATOR KING: “You used the term risk calculus. You’ve used the new authorities very effectively in the elections of 2018 and 2020 in terms of defending forward and engaging with the adversaries in their systems. Has that had a deterrent effect that you’ve observed? Do you believe that the adversaries are thinking twice about things that they may be planning against us because they know of the capacity that you've demonstrated?
GENERAL NAKASONE: “Senator, I continue to see our adversaries operate rapidly in terms of being able to try to operate below our level of armed conflict. We have effectively gone from being a very static to a very active force as you referred to defend-forward for the Department’s cyberstrategy of 2018 and our instantiation at U.S. Cyber Command of persistent engagement. How do you both enable your partners, and act? We continue to do that. We are operating in a space where our adversaries are not going stop, they are going to continue to look for ways to steal our intellectual property, to steal our identification, to try to influence our populists. We at the same have to be forward, we have to be operating, and we have to be engaged with our adversaries and that’s what has been my focus over the past couple years.”
SENATOR KING: “Would you agree that we need to deter to develop a cyberdoctrine if you will, of declared deterrence? Because as you say they are going to continue to do this until they have a risk calculus that tells them that there will be a price to be paid that they are not willing to undertake.”
GENERAL NAKASONE: “So, certainly Senator the policymakers continue to look at this type of doctrine and I know that’s being worked. From my perspective or my responsibilities I am very very focused on operationally how do we ensure that we can operate against these adversaries that continue to try to operate below the level of armed conflict.”
In addition to General Nakasone, today’s hearing featured testimony from Christopher Maier, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; and General Richard Clarke, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
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 convene nearly every Monday that Congress is in session, and its staff draws upon the expertise of corporate leaders, federal, state and local officials, academics, and cybersecurity experts. The meetings are all in the interest of informing and strengthening America’s posture in cyberspace and identify opportunities to improve our national preparedness to defend ourselves against cyberattacks.