Senate panel again looks to force Trump’s hand on cyber warfare strategy

Senate panel again looks to force Trump’s hand on cyber warfare strategy
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A Senate panel is attempting again to dictate a cyber policy strategy — even after the Trump administration submitted its own, classified strategy to Congress last month.

The Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved a new version of the annual defense policy bill, formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), 25-2. The panel's version would set a cyber warfare doctrine stating that the United States will use “all instruments of national power” — including military force and offensive digital operations — to counter cyberattacks that deliberately threaten American lives or critical infrastructure.


The bill also would make it U.S. policy to “employ all instruments of national power, including the use of offensive cyber capabilities, to deter if possible, and respond when necessary, to cyber attacks that target U.S. interests with the intent to cause casualties, significantly disrupt the normal functioning of our democratic society or government, threaten the Armed Forces or the critical infrastructure they rely upon, achieve an effect comparable to an armed attack, or imperil a U.S. vital interest,” according to a bipartisan summary released Thursday afternoon. 

Lawmakers on the committee have increasingly raised alarm over the threat of cyberattacks, particularly in the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Many have also expressed frustration with successive administrations on having no comprehensive strategy for deterring and responding to attacks in the cyber realm. 

“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,” a bipartisan group of senators wrote to Trump in March. 

A similar provision was included in the version of the NDAA approved by the committee last year. That provision never made it into the final bill after the Trump administration objected to it.

Instead, the 2018 legislation instructed President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE to submit a cyber warfare strategy to Congress — which he did last month. That strategy is classified.

Committee lawmakers hammered out the details of the bill behind closed doors this week. The committee, led by Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLive coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge MORE (R-Ariz.) and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedFive changes Democrats will seek at Pentagon if they win power The Hill's Morning Report — Historic, high-stakes day for Kavanaugh and Ford Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal MORE (D-R.I.), is expected to release the full version of the bill in the coming days.

The Senate panel approved the legislation the same day that the full House easily passed its own version.

Once the full Senate approves its bill, both chambers will go to conference to negotiate a compromise.