Lawmakers Tease Forthcoming Cyberspace Commission Report

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Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., alluded to recommendations, ideologies, and methods of the forthcoming Cyberspace Solarium Commission report at a Council on Foreign Relations event on Jan. 7 – but resisted making the big reveal with harder news about the report’s findings.

When the commission was first announced, its report was targeted for publishing in Spring 2020. While Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher did not share a more precise date at today’s event, they did report that commissioners have been working hard on prescriptive recommendations.

“We’ve met pretty much every week for two straight hours since last March and we have very rigorous and open debates,” Sen. King said, adding, “It’s the way Congress should work but doesn’t.”

The problem, Rep. Gallagher explained, is that cyber touches every aspect of life and the commission does not have the ability to comment on everything. Sen. King shared that the report at one point detailed 180 different cyberspace recommendations. That list has now been narrowed down to 75 recommendations, he said.

While the commission is still “actively debating” what topics to include in the report, there’s some consensus among commissioners that cyberspace policy should be reorganized, the House member said. Rep. Gallagher specifically highlighted his desire to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) – along with greater White House and Congressional oversight – to “get all the ingredients in the cyber community working together.”

According to Rep. Gallagher, the report also will touch on: requiring the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct an assessment of all cyber forces; recommendations concerning cyberspace partnerships with allied countries; the possibility of private sector and Federal government partnerships; and the military’s role in securing cyberspace.

Sen. King detailed the importance of a strong cybersecurity posture in the face of rising tensions with Iran.

“The danger of the threat that we face is so serious and so imminent,” he said. “The folks at Tehran – I’m sure that one of the options they’re looking at now is a cyberattack.”

“The Iranians have already demonstrated the capability to mess with the financial system…It’s all electronic. People have to realize that,” he added later.

According to the senator’s calculations, adversaries can buy 8,000 hackers for the cost of one jet fighter. The low cost to entry, he asserted, is one of the reasons why he advocates for international norms and conventions around cyberspace similar to the Geneva Convention.

“It’s clear that deterrence at the level below the level of kinetic force has not worked,” Sen. King said. “Adversaries need to understand that they’re going to pay a price.”

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