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May 10, 2016

King, Rounds Introduce Legislation Requiring Administration to Define a Cyber Act of War

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that he and Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) have introduced the Cyber Act of War Act of 2016, legislation that would require the Administration to develop a policy to determine when a cyber-attack constitutes an act of war. A clear policy does not yet exist despite the increasing vulnerability of our systems and personal information to cyber-attacks.

“Cyber-space is a new and evolving battlefield in the 21st century, where the stroke of a computer key could disrupt an electric grid or cripple the financial sector,” Senator King said. “That’s why the United States must be prepared to confront such attacks and defend our networks. By requiring the Administration to define what constitutes an act of war in the cyber domain, this legislation would help our government be better able to respond to cyber-attacks and deter malicious actors from launching them in the first place.”

As a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator King has repeatedly called for a comprehensive, national cyber-security strategy that defines what actions in cyber-space would constitute an act of war. During an Armed Services Committee hearing in April 2016, he pressed the Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, to hasten the development of such a cyber-strategy and implement an offensive cyber-attack capability to serve as a deterrent to our adversaries.

The Cyber Act of War Act of 2016 would require that, in developing the policy for determining when an action carried out in cyber-space constitutes an act of war against the United States, the administration must consider:

  • The ways in which the effects of a cyber-attack may be equivalent to effects of an attack using conventional weapons, for example with regard to physical destruction or casualties; and
  • The intangible effects of significant scope, intensity or duration.

It would also require the Department of Defense to include this definition in its Law of War Manual. The policy required by the bill would be due 180 days after enactment.

The complete text of the legislation can be found HERE.


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