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July 30, 2020

Testifying Before House Committee, King Spotlights Absence of a “Central Point” of U.S. Cyberstrategy in Making Case for National Cyber Director

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) – joined by Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) Co-chair Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Commissioners Patrick Murphy and Frank Cilluffo – testified before the House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services and presented the CSC’s recommendations to establish a comprehensive, forward-looking cybersecurity strategy for the United States. The final report, issued on March 11, lays out more than 80 recommendations, including over 50 legislative proposals, to improve the security of U.S. critical infrastructure and provides a strategic approach of layered cyber deterrence to defend the United States against cyberattacks of significant consequences. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s final report can be read in full HERE.

“The most significant recommendation [in CSC’s final report]… is the National Cyber Director. The reality is right now we have enormously capable people throughout the federal government, but there’s no central point of oversight, there’s no central point of coordination, there’s no central point of defining strategy. And I really think that that’s one of the critical recommendations,” said Senator King in the hearing. **Video HERE**

“The purpose of the National Cyber Director is planning and coordination – not operations. The chain of command between the [U.S.] Cyber Command and Secretary of Defense and the President would not be interrupted...we want this person to be accountable for the coordination but this would not have an operational role. This person would have an oversight over the budgets of the various agencies, not a veto, but a recommendation and a certification through the [Office of Management and Budget] process. Again, the whole idea is to bring some level of sensible organization because right now there’s nobody in charge. But to answer your specific question, it’s still [U.S.] Cyber Command, Secretary of Defense, and President of the United States [in charge of operations].” **Video HERE**


Senator King additionally highlighted collaboration with the international community to set norms and standards in cyberspace:

“I think there’s a series of steps and one that really hasn’t been mentioned very strongly so far is the international community. We’re in the infancy of the law of cyberwar if you will. We need to be more active participants in setting the standards and in the guardrails and the norms for activity in cyberspace. So that when we do act – whether it’s the imposition of sanctions, or other responses – we’re not acting alone or unilaterally. Winston Churchchill said the only thing worse than fighting with your allies is fighting without allies. And that’s one of our major advantages on the world stage with regard to our principle adversaries – Russia and China.

Secondly, we have to have a clear declaratory policy. I emphasize the word declaratory because if you don’t tell your adversary that you’ll respond, then it’s not a deterrent. And so I think we need to have a much clearer statement of our strategy, so that adversaries know that they will – in fact – pay a price.”

            **Video HERE**



In relation to the current coronavirus crisis, Senator King underscored the critical need for continuity of the economy in the event of a cyber catastrophe:

“One thing that the pandemic has taught us is that the unthinkable can happen. If you had told us all a year ago that we’d be wearing masks and we’d have a large part of our economy having severe difficulty, all the things that are happening, it would’ve sounded like science fiction. The unthinkable can happen and that’s really what we’re talking about here.

We’ve really got to be thinking about and an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. I mean, we’ve got to be thinking about how to react when the unthinkable happens and if everybody pointing at one another and there’s no plan on the shelf we’re going be infinitely worse and that infinitely longer to recover. So I think that this is one of our most important recommendations and overall one of our most important insights of the Commission was the extent to which we had to really forge a new relationship and think in a new way about how the government and the private sector relate in terms of sharing intelligence, attack data, cooperating [and] talking to allies – it’s really a comprehensive approach to this, and I think that’s one of the significant insights that we bring to the table in the report.”

**Video HERE**

Earlier this month, Senator King and Representative Gallagher announced the release of the CSC’s Fiscal Year 2021 legislative proposals that in tandem with the final report, offer bipartisan solutions to better defend the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks of significant consequence. In June, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission released fresh observations from the pandemic as they related to the security of cyberspace, both in terms of the unique cybersecurity challenges it creates, but also what it can teach the United States about how to better prepare for a major cyber disruption. Click HERE to read the CSC white paper, “Cybersecurity Lessons Learned from the Pandemic.”

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission was established by statute in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and officially launched in April 2019. 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 understand America’s posture in cyberspace and identify opportunities to improve our national preparedness to defend ourselves against cyberattacks.

The CSC was established in the spirit of the original Project Solarium convened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. The original Solarium was created to develop a consensus strategy to counter the Soviet Union as it was threatening the United States and its allies in the early days of the Cold War. This work contributed to the strategies that guided the United States through the Cold War ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The newest iteration of the Solarium seeks to create a path forward that will guide the United States through a new age of warfare.

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