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 KingCongress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Democrats brace for round two of impeachment witness fight The Hill's Morning Report - Deescalation: US-Iran conflict eases MORE (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherGOP lawmaker: New sanctions provide 'offramp' from rising US-Iran tensions GOP Congressman reacts to Trump's address Hillicon Valley: DHS warns of Iranian cyber threats | YouTube updates child content policy | California privacy law takes effect | Tech, cyber issues to watch in 2020 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 SasseOn The Money: Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes | Trade deficit falls to three-year low | Senate confirms Trump pick for small business chief Senate panel advances Trump's new NAFTA despite GOP gripes Congress to clash over Trump's war powers MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinHillicon Valley: DHS warns of Iranian cyber threats | YouTube updates child content policy | California privacy law takes effect | Tech, cyber issues to watch in 2020 Lawmakers close to finalizing federal strategy to defend against cyberattacks Hillicon Valley: Spending deal includes 5M for election security | House passes bill to bar use of funds for Huawei | Top White House telecom advisor steps down MORE (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Former Rep. Patrick MurphyPatrick Erin MurphyLawmakers close to finalizing federal strategy to defend against cyberattacks Bipartisan panel to issue recommendations for defending US against cyberattacks early next year First Iraq vet to serve in Congress endorses Buttigieg 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.