New Federal Public-Private Cyber Task Force Hopes White House Will Be ‘Engaged’
Cyber threats have evolved past attacks on data to attacks on democracy. U.S. government agencies say Russia prefers to “divide and conquer” voters in several democracies throughout the Western world. The goal is to defeat democratic countries from within by way of sophisticated disinformation campaigns.
So far, Russia has been successful, and the attacks are expected to escalate as a result in the 2020 presidential elections. Furthering the danger, there are doubts that the U.S. is ready to stem the attacks. And those doubts deepen as the White House continues to ignore threat warnings from the Intelligence Community (IC). Still, protective efforts are being made. One is a recently launched public-private cyber task force.
Called the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), the task force was established under a statute in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced its launch earlier this month.
“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,” said Rep. Gallagher.
“I’m proud to join Senator King in leading the Commission and confident the team will write the playbook to secure our interests in cyberspace for years to come,” Rep. Gallagher added.
The 14-member committee lists on its membership roll members of Congress, top officials at federal agencies, and civilians.
Interestingly, the Commission has yet to interact with the White House.
“Eventually part of this process will involve the White House, and we hope that they are engaged,” Sen. King said. He added that President Trump’s executive order on cybersecurity issued last year was a positive move. “It’s not the whole way, but it indicates a level of interest,” he added. “And, certainly, ultimately this is going to require the engagement of all parts of the federal government, including the president.”
It may well be that closing the gaps in cybersecurity to protect the U.S. and its elections will ultimately be left to entities like this Commission and a smattering of ad hoc groups and infosec partnerships given President Trump’s ongoing hostilities toward the IC and stringent denials of any mention of Russian interference. However, given Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement Wednesday pointing to Russian interference in elections as a concern of “every American,” the country may soon have a dedicated focus on remedying this in a more formal structure.
“Our underlying mission is to formulate a comprehensive cyber strategy and doctrine and policy for the United States in a time of escalating cyberthreats,” Sen. King said in an AFCEA Signal report. “[It’s everything] from election meddling to threats against the infrastructure, the financial system, the electric grid, pipelines and businesses. There’s a very broad scale level of threats, and what we’re trying to do is develop a policy that can be understood and effectuated by our adversaries that involves more than just patching software.”