Week ahead: Lawmakers divided over Pentagon's cyber unit

The Senate is taking up its version of an annual defense bill, setting the stage for debate over a change in authority for U.S. Cyber Command.

A House-passed version of the annual defense bill directs the president to elevate the Pentagon's top cyber unit to a standalone warfighting entity.


But the current version of the Senate bill lacks that provision. A bipartisan group of senators wants to bring the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in line with its House counterpart.

The amendment would pull Cyber Command out from under the authority of Strategic Command, from which it currently must obtain permission before conducting cyber operations.

The move appears to have widespread support from lawmakers, as well as Adm. Michael Rogers, the unit's head. He said last month that elevating the unit to a full combatant command would make it more nimble and "generate better mission outcomes."

Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Meghan McCain shares story of miscarriage Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPentagon's No. 2 policy official to retire Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations MORE (D-R.I.) both signaled their support for the idea during an April hearing on the unit.

But the White House opposes a statutory requirement to elevate the unit.

The administration argues that the secretary of Defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "should retain the flexibility to recommend to the President changes to the unified command plan that they believe would most effectively organize the military to address an ever-evolving threat environment."

Supporters see the change in authority as a logical evolution as cyber actions play an increasingly important role in U.S. defense operations.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said recently that the U.S. is "dropping cyber bombs" on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"As ISIS is recruiting more and more followers online, CYBERCOM needs the ability to react quickly and engage the enemy effectively. Elevating Cyber Command will ensure that our military is always one step ahead of our adversaries in light of the increased global threats today," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), one of the lawmakers behind the proposed change, said last week.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the $81-million cyberheist from the Bangladesh central bank's account at the New York Federal Reserve is drawing more scrutiny from lawmakers.

The House Science Committee on Wednesday launched an investigation into the New York Fed over its response to the incident. The hackers are believed to have exploited a flaw in SWIFT, a messaging network used by banks across the globe to exchange information about financial transfers.

The committee is requesting a briefing by the New York Fed on the status of its investigation and "all documents or communications related to any review conducted by the NY Fed of its own information technology," according to a letter from Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

"In light of the recent cyber attacks on our global financial systems, the Committee believes it is imperative to receive information from the NY Fed about its response, its oversight of SWIFT, the status of the investigation, and any remedial steps taken to address vulnerabilities," Smith wrote in the letter to New York Fed President William Dudley.

The probe comes amid reports indicating that the Federal Reserve was breached more than 50 times between 2011 and 2015.



NATO member countries will likely move to designate cyber as an official domain of warfare during a summit meeting in Warsaw next month, a senior German defense ministry official said: http://bit.ly/22CHe0x

Civil liberties groups are pushing back on a bill intended to prevent so-called botnet attacks: http://bit.ly/1XoDznW

Facebook is joining a parade of tech companies rolling out end-to-end encryption following the FBI's high-profile standoff with Apple: http://bit.ly/1XW55I3

Europe's data privacy watchdog on Monday said that a pending deal between the United States and the European Union needs "robust improvements": http://bit.ly/1PrcqOl

Parts of the federal government's $80 billion information technology budget are used to run 1970s-era computers, maintain outdated code and rehire former employees who are the only ones with the knowledge to operate them: http://bit.ly/1Prc6Pp

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson says he would consider pardoning National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden as president: http://bit.ly/20XjdQw

A federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to release new emails connected to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge Takei: US has hit a new low under Trump Democrats slam Puerto Rico governor over 'shameful' comments, back protesters Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE before Democratic National Convention in July: http://bit.ly/1srJV8M

The man believed to have set up and maintained Hillary Clinton's private email server will assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions as part of an open records lawsuit against the State Department: http://bit.ly/1WzisPe