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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal 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.]


“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 HeinrichOvernight Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Schneider Electric — Deadly Ida floodwaters grip southeast US David Sirota: Seven Democrats who voted against fracking ban trying to secure future elections Deadly extreme heat has arrived: here's how policymakers can save lives MORE (D-N.M.). It is signed by Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsThe 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill Senate passes T bipartisan infrastructure bill in major victory for Biden Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill MORE (R-S.D.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on cyber, as well as Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Trump offers sympathy for those charged with Jan. 6 offenses Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-S.C.), Angus KingAngus KingSenate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case MORE (I-Maine), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenSenate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it Scott Brown's wife files to run for Congress MORE (D-N.H.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project MORE (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE (R-S.C.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees The FBI comes up empty-handed in its search for a Jan. 6 plot MORE (D-N.Y.), Ben SasseBen SassePresident of newly recognized union for adult performers boosts membership Romney blasts Biden over those left in Afghanistan: 'Bring them home' Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal MORE (R-Neb.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Va.), Gary PetersGary PetersFreedomWorks misfires on postal reform Senators call on Taiwan for aid in automotive chip shortage Lawmakers raise concerns over federal division of cybersecurity responsibilities MORE (D-Mich.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.) and Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Hillicon Valley: Facebook tightens teen protections | FBI cautions against banning ransomware payments | Republicans probe White House-social media collaboration 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 CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' 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.