Sen King, Rep Gallagher to chair bipartisan commission to defend US in cyberspace

Sen King, Rep Gallagher to chair bipartisan commission to defend US in cyberspace
© Greg Nash

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine Democrats grill Army, Air Force nominees on military funding for border wall Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year MORE (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John Gallagher2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border MORE (R-Wis.) announced Wednesday that they will lead the newly established Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), a group of government and industry officials working to create a report on how to defend the U.S. in cyberspace.

The CSC, established by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), will hold “regular information-gathering hearings” to review cyber threats, with the goal of creating a report that includes “strategic recommendations” to prevent cyberattacks in a changing global landscape, according to the chairmen.

As stated in the 2019 NDAA, the CSC has until Sept. 1 to send its report to Congress and multiple federal agencies. King and Gallagher said the rollout of the report will also include hearings to discuss the report’s findings involving congressional committees on defense, intelligence and homeland security.

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King vowed on Wednesday to use the CSC to “build a foundation” to both protect the U.S. against cyberattacks and discourage adversaries from launching attacks on the nation’s digital infrastructure.  

“At this moment, we do not have a clear strategy to prevent bad actors from attacking our vital infrastructure, and with each passing moment of inaction, the risks grow graver,” King said. “I deeply believe that the next crippling attack on our country will be a cyber-attack; from attacks on critical infrastructure such as our electrical grid, financial sector, or telecommunications network to further interference in our free and open elections, there are a number of vulnerable targets that our enemies could exploit in order to inflict serious harm on the American people.”

King added “the United States government owes it to the American people to take this challenge head on.”

Gallagher said in a statement that “cyberspace is a decisive battlefield in the 21st century,” adding that “every day, Americans are on the frontline of a new kind of conflict—wittingly or not—and we lack a plan to combat these challenges. It is imperative we take immediate action. Taking a page from President Eisenhower, the Commission’s goal is to bring together the country’s best and brightest to develop a comprehensive, strategic approach to counter these growing threats.”

The CSC was named for President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 Solarium Project, which was tasked with developing a strategy to defend the U.S. against threats from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Other members of the CSC include Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank The Hill's Morning Report - Trump ousts Bolton; GOP exhales after win in NC Trump endorses Sasse in 2020 race MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinOvernight Defense: Afghanistan tops foreign policy issues at Dem debate | Erdogan says he'll discuss missile sale with Trump | US again challenges Beijing's claim to South China Sea Treasury sanctions three North Korean cyber groups for targeting critical infrastructure Lawmakers weigh responses to rash of ransomware attacks MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Former Rep. Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphyBipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year First Iraq vet to serve in Congress endorses Buttigieg Sen King, Rep Gallagher to chair bipartisan commission to defend US in cyberspace MORE (D-Pa.) is also a member.

Other members of government taking up positions on the CSC include FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon, acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist and acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security David Pekoske.

The remaining members include several former government officials, such as Suzanne Spaulding, the former under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate; former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency Chris Inglis; and Samantha Ravich, the former principal deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Tom Fanning, the chairman, president and CEO of Southern Company, and Frank Cilluffo, the director of Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security, round out the membership of the CSC.