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Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump

Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump
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A bipartisan group of senators is pressing President TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE to issue a national strategy for deterring malicious activity in cyberspace “as soon as possible,” accusing successive administrations of not giving enough urgency to the issue.

“The lack of decisive and clearly articulated consequences to cyberattacks against our country has served as an open invitation to foreign adversaries and malicious cyber actors to continue attacking the United States,” the senators wrote in the letter, obtained by The Hill. [Read the senators' letter below.]

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“The United States has failed to formulate, implement, and declare a comprehensive cyber doctrine with an appropriate sense of urgency,” they wrote. “We urge you to end this state of inaction immediately.”

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichGroups petition EPA to remove ethane and methane from list of compounds exempt from emissions limits Senators press for answers in Space Command move decision Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (D-N.M.). It is signed by Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsCongress looks to rein in Biden's war powers Columbine and the era of the mass shooter, two decades on GOP senator tweets statue of himself holding gun to Biden: 'Come and take it' MORE (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cyber, as well as Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMSNBC's Joy Reid pans Manchin, Sinema as the 'no progress caucus' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike MORE (R-S.C.), Angus KingAngus KingGroups petition EPA to remove ethane and methane from list of compounds exempt from emissions limits Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan MORE (I-Maine), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLawmakers express horror at latest Capitol attack Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (D-N.H.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanCongress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured GOP lawmakers ask Biden administration for guidance on reopening cruise industry Alaska's other GOP senator says he'll back Murkowski for reelection MORE (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottPassage of FASTER Act is critical for food allergy community 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE (R-S.C.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Manhattan law firm named as lead in Cuomo impeachment investigation Senate Democrats call on DHS for details on response to Portland protests MORE (D-N.Y.), Ben SasseBen SasseTo encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision Maine GOP rejects motion to censure Collins Senators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats MORE (R-Neb.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers | Diversity chief at Special Operations Command reassigned during probe into social media posts Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers House panel advances bill to repeal 2002 war authorization MORE (D-Va.), Gary PetersGary PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Hillicon Valley: Intel heads to resume threats hearing scrapped under Trump | New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy | Amazon backs corporate tax hike to pay for infrastructure Senators call for update on investigations into SolarWinds, Microsoft hacks MORE (D-Mich.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs | GOP bashes border, policing provisions Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (D-Mass.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden may find zero GOP support for jobs plan Biden says Cabinet 'looks like America' at first meeting Both parties look to recruit Asian American candidates as violence against group increases MORE (D-Hawaii).

Lawmakers have taken issue with both the Obama and Trump administrations for failing to develop a comprehensive strategy for deterring and responding to malicious behavior in cyberspace.

In order to press the executive branch on the issue, Congress inserted language into recent iterations of annual defense policy legislation directing the president to develop a cyber deterrence strategy.

President Trump strongly objected to a provision in the current National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requiring him to develop a national cyber policy, though he ultimately signed the bill.

“In congressional hearings over the course of several years, we have heard numerous government officials across party lines from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the National Security Agency each point to the White House when answering which government entity is in charge of formulating our nation’s cyber doctrine,” the lawmakers wrote Wednesday. “To date, despite a rapid increase in cyber activity by both nation-states and non-state actors, no cyber deterrence strategy has been announced.”

The issue came up most recently at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats that featured extensive discussions between lawmakers and top intelligence officials on cyber threats. 

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsIntel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows How President Biden can hit a home run MORE, in response to questions from Rounds at the hearing Tuesday, acknowledged that the government has not developed a comprehensive cyber policy.

“I don't think the progress has been made quick enough to put us in a position where we have a firm policy and understanding, not only ourselves, but what our adversaries know relative to how we're going to deal with this,” Coats said, noting that it will take a “whole-of-government” effort.

Coats also told Heinrich that he could not give a “specific date” on when lawmakers could expect a cyber strategy from the new administration. He said there had been “ongoing discussions” on the issue within the executive branch.

The lawmakers on Wednesday asked Trump for an immediate update on the status of the policy, including a timeline on its completion. 

White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce was copied on the letter. 

“A strong cyber doctrine by the United States government would serve as a deterrent, which is not only necessary, but critical to our nation’s survival in the digital age,” the senators wrote. 

They cited cyber threats to U.S. critical infrastructure as well as “state-sponsored disinformation” targeting the electoral process – an apparent reference to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.