National Defense Strategy Commission Calls for Stronger Cyber Capabilities

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The National Defense Strategy Commission released recommendations this week for the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, including an urgent need to improve cyber defenses.

“In particular, it is painfully clear that America is not competing or deterring its adversaries as effectively as it should in cyberspace. We must operate more nimbly, aggressively, and effectively in this crucial domain,” the report states.

The commission also singled out the rapid proliferation of a broad range of advanced technologies as a challenge for the military, and raised concerns that the U.S. as a whole is falling behind other nations in advanced technology development.

The commission’s main recommendation is a call for 3-5 percent annual increases in defense spending for the next five years. On military technology issues, the report recommends strengthening the U.S. National Security Innovation Base and exploring more pilot programs to keep pace with innovation. And in the cybersecurity realm, the report recommends that Congress appoint a high-level commission to make recommendations on how the government can better deter cyber adversaries.

In front of Congress on Tuesday morning, the co-chairs of the commission–Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Finland and Turkey, and retired Admiral Gary Roughead–elaborated on the report’s recommendations.

“We are concerned that the [National Defense] Strategy is not adequately resourced. The 2018 and 2019 budgets moved us in the right direction, but there’s now a prospect that we will be moving in the wrong direction because we believe strongly that for this strategy to succeed, it needs adequate, predictable, and consistent levels of funding,” said Edelman.

Technology, cybersecurity, and its role in “gray-zone” conflicts were also subjects of concerns for senators at the hearing.

“As we look at where much of the action has been in the last 10 years or so, outside of the counterterrorism issues, it’s been in those two arenas. And yet we still don’t have identified authorities to address cyber,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

“I have observed over the years the rapid technological advances in our commercial companies. Do you see opportunities for expanded commercial-military operations, and where do you see that?,” asked Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

“I think that the need for there to be civil-military cooperation, especially in the technological space, is imperative,” responded Roughead. “If we can’t make it easy for companies to be able to work quickly, smoothly, effectively, and cooperatively within the Department of Defense acquisition system, I think we’re just going to increase frustration, because we’ll be calling for more cooperation and we just make it hard.”

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