Trump ‘strongly’ objects to cyber provision in defense bill

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President Trump is voicing strong objection to language in the defense policy bill that requires him to develop a national policy for cyberspace and cyberwarfare, charging that it and other provisions “raise constitutional concerns.”

Trump issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, just hours after he signed the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, touting the signing as a step toward his goal of building up the U.S. military.


The provision in question requires the administration to set forth a national cyber policy that addresses the use of offensive cyber capabilities to respond to attacks in cyberspace. The law requires the administration to report the strategy to Congress and makes funding for the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) contingent on Trump doing so.

Trump argued in the statement released by the White House that the provision amounts to Congress holding “hostage” his ability to communicate on national security strategy going forward, saying the provision “threatens to undermine the effective operation of the Executive Office of the President.” 

“I take cyber‑related issues very seriously, as demonstrated by Executive Order 13800, which has initiated strategic actions across executive departments and agencies that will improve the Nation’s cyber-related capabilities,” Trump said. “Among other things, WHCA plays a critical role in providing secure communications to the President and his staff.” 

“The Congress should not hold hostage the President’s ability to communicate in furtherance of the Nation’s security and foreign policy,” he said. “I look forward to working with the Congress to address, as quickly as possible, this unprecedented and dangerous funding restriction.”

Cyber policy decisions have been a source of tension between the administration and members of Congress who have grown frustrated with a lack of comprehensive cyber policy from the Obama and now Trump administrations.

Previous iterations of the defense policy bill have included language that directed the executive branch to set a cyber warfare policy.

The original Senate-passed version of this year’s defense bill included a provision that set a distinct doctrine for cyber warfare, an effort spearheaded by Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain (R-Ariz.) that also sparked backlash from the White House.

That particular language was not ultimately included in the final compromise bill hashed out by lawmakers that passed the House and Senate in November. 

Currently, cyber authorities are scattered across various federal bodies, including the Pentagon, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

Tags cyber warfare Donald Trump Donald Trump John McCain

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