Week ahead: NSA nominee heads before Senate Intelligence Committee

Greg Nash

President Trump’s choice to helm the National Security Agency will face lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee for his second confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the Army’s current cyber chief, was unanimously approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday to serve in the dual-hat role as NSA director and commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

Nakasone is sure to face a flurry of questions about cyber threats to the United States, the U.S. intelligence mission, and the possible separation of NSA and Cyber Command, after Trump formally elevated the latter into its own warfighting unit last year.


Nakasone is likely to be grilled by lawmakers on Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential threats to the 2018 midterm elections, a topic that figured prominently during his first confirmation hearing before the Armed Services panel.

Nakasone, who has been received warmly by both Democrats and Republicans, acknowledged at that hearing that foreign adversaries including Russia have not faced steep enough penalties in cyberspace to change their malicious behavior.

Nakasone’s open confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee will take place Thursday morning and could be followed by a closed-door session with lawmakers, the committee announced Friday.

Should he be confirmed, Nakasone will replace Adm. Michael Rogers, who is expected to retire from his post later this year.

Meanwhile, Armed Services senators will hear from Nakasone and other U.S. military cyber commanders on Tuesday about the cyber posture of their respective branches. The hearing will feature the top cyber commanders of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.

Those hankering for some kind of response from Congress to the massive Equifax data breach might actually get their wish in the coming week.

The Senate is poised to soon vote on a measure requiring credit-reporting firms to offer free credit freezes to consumers who request them, which is included in a broader banking reform package.

Equifax weathered massive criticism for its response to the breach last year, which exposed sensitive personal data on more than 145 million U.S. consumers. The cyberattack has triggered efforts in Washington to create a national standard for breach notification, in addition to other legislative proposals.

While the measure requiring free credit freezes is viewed as a response to the Equifax breach, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) told The Wall Street Journal that he wished it did more to rein in credit-reporting firms.

“They have all of our personal information,” Warner said. “And there are no clear standards and clear penalties.”

The Senate has teed up a cloture vote on the broader package, S. 2155, which eases a number of Dodd-Frank financial regulations, on Monday evening.

Next week could also bring more movement on a measure reauthorizing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The measure includes a number of provisions related to the department’s cybersecurity mission.

The bill advanced the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday and notably includes language reorganizing and renaming Homeland Security’s lead office for cybersecurity and infrastructure protection, the National Protection and Programs Directorate.

What the bill does not include, however, are measures addressing election security despite growing fears about future Russian interference. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) planned to introduce an amendment to the bill addressing the issue with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), though he was forced to withdraw it at the last minute after receiving complaints from some state-level election officials.

Lankford signaled he might still offer a revised amendment to the bill, which can now move to the Senate floor.

The House has already passed stand-alone bills reauthorizing Homeland Security and renaming the cyber office.


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Tags Donald Trump James Lankford Mark Warner
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