New defense cyber commission plans for future threats

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the newly established Cyberspace Solarium Commission, said the group is currently determining how best to structure itself and allocate resources as it seeks to explore three visions for defending U.S. interests in cyberspace.

The commission, chartered in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, is made up of 14 members drawn from federal agencies, Congress and the private sector. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) is the other co-chair. The commission also includes FBI Director Christopher Wray, cyber-focused lawmaker Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Sue Gordon the deputy director of the Office of National Intelligence, former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Ingles and Suzanne Spaulding, who used to lead the cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security.

Their mandate includes election meddling, 5G and economic espionage, threats against government infrastructure, the financial system, electric grid, pipelines and businesses.

The commission draws inspiration for its name and mission from Project Solarium, a 1953 body formed by President Dwight Eisenhower that debated three strategies for confronting Soviet expansion. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission plans to break into working groups focusing on offensive strategy, defensive strategy focused on deterrence, and regulating threats through global norms enforced by the international community.

"There's no central leadership and there's no policy that our adversaries -- or our allies for that matter -- can discern about what we're going to do in a particular situation, and my belief is that until we clarify that, we're going to keep getting hit," King said during a May 13 conference call with reporters.

The group's final recommendations will likely combine efforts from all three working groups. King said that separate strategies might be needed to deal with disparate threats from nation states, rogue actors and criminal organizations.

Proponents of each of the three strategic perspectives will debate the virtues of each approach at an event in September, to be followed by a final report that includes policy and legislative recommendations.

The U.S. government isn't exactly lacking in such strategies: the Trump administration, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security each rolled out visions for defending U.S. interests in cyberspace last year, and King said the commission will try to build on, not supplant, those strategies. While the commission isn't currently working directly with the White House, King said the group includes executive branch agency representatives, and it envisions the administration will weigh in at some point.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

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