General: Cyber bill needed to give the US military an edge

For the U.S. military to gain a competitive advantage in cyberspace, Congress must pass cybersecurity information-sharing legislation, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The U.S. is facing a “level playing field” when it comes to cyber threats, Dempsey said in an interview with the Defense Department’s official media outlet.

{mosads}While the military has robust cyber defenses, it also relies on commercial networks with weaker cybersecurity, he said.

The imbalance presents “a significant vulnerability to our nation,” and allows hackers to potentially compete with the U.S. military, Dempsey explained.

“We have authorities and capabilities that allow us to do a pretty good job of defending ourselves,” he said. “But the vulnerability of the rest of America is a vulnerability of ours, and that’s what we have to reconcile.”

To bolster private-sector cybersecurity, Congress must enable the exchange of cyber threat indicators between the public and private sectors, Dempsey said.

“We haven’t done enough — that’s just not internal to the military,” Dempsey said. “We haven’t done enough as a nation.”

The issue has been at the forefront of policy makers’ minds in recent weeks.

The White House dropped its own cyber info-sharing legislative proposal on Jan. 13 and President Obama called on Congress to pass the measure during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyberattacks,” Obama said.

Privacy concerns will present a big hurdle to passage, though. Some worry the information exchange could give the government another venue for collecting Americans’ personal information.

Combining the multiple legislative proposals on the issue will also be time consuming.

But Dempsey believes the military can only gain the cyberspace upper hand after such legislation is passed.

“As the senior military officer of the most powerful military on the planet, I like to have the playing field tilted to my advantage,” he said. “I’d like the enemy to play uphill and us to play downhill.” 

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