Rounds Delivers Opening Statement at Cybersecurity Subcommittee Hearing
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, today delivered his opening statement at the subcommittee’s hearing on the Department of Defense’s role in protecting democratic elections.
“There is no dispute about what Russia did during the 2016 election cycle,” said Rounds in his opening statement. “There is clear evidence that Russia attempted to undermine our democratic process through the these issues with a hacking of independent political entities, manipulation of social media and use of propaganda venues such as Russia Today…The Department of Defense has a critical role to play in challenging and influencing the mindset of our cyber adversaries and defending the homeland from attacks—attacks that could include cyber-attacks by other nations against our election infrastructure. We look forward to the department approaching heightened sense of urgency.”
Rounds’ remarks, as prepared for delivery:
The Cybersecurity Subcommittee meets this afternoon to receive testimony on the Department of Defense’s role in protecting the U.S. election process. The witnesses are:
- Mr. Bob Butler, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Cyber Strategies LLC;
- Ms. Heather Conley, the Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic, and Director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies;
- Dr. Richard Harknett, the Head of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati and a former Scholar-in-Residence at U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency; and
- Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, the Director of the Cyber Security Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.
At the conclusion of Ranking Member Nelson’s comments, we will ask our witnesses to make their opening remarks.
After that, we will have a round of questions and answers.
There is no dispute about what Russia did during the 2016 election cycle.
There is clear evidence that Russia attempted to undermine our democratic process through the hacking of independent political entities, manipulation of social media and use of propaganda venues such as Russia Today.
Evidence to date indicates that no polls or state election systems were manipulated to change the outcome of the vote.
However, there was evidence of Russian probing of certain election systems in 21 states.
The Department of Defense has a critical role to play in challenging and influencing the mindset of our cyber adversaries and defending the homeland from attacks—attacks that could include cyber-attacks by other nations against our election infrastructure.
We look forward to the department approaching these issues with a heightened sense of urgency.
The threat is not going away.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency warned that Russia will seek to influence the upcoming mid-term elections.
The White House National Security Advisor stated in December that we have seen initial signs of Russian meddling in the 2018 Mexican presidential campaign.
This is all in addition to Russian attempts to influence the elections in France and Germany last year.
Each of us on this panel has been quite vocal about the need for a strategy that seizes the strategic high ground in cyberspace.
Whether you call it deterrence or something else, we need a strategy that moves out of the trenches and imposes costs on our adversaries.
The lack of consequences for the countless attacks over the past decade has emboldened our adversaries and left us vulnerable to emboldened behavior.
The attacks we experienced during the 2016 election are just the latest rung on that escalation ladder.
As long as our adversaries feel that they can act with impunity, they will press further.
Our witnesses offer unique perspectives on the challenges we face.
We look to them to help us understand why our posture of restraint has not worked, if we can reverse the damage already done and what it will take to develop and implement a strategy that limits our exposure and imposes costs on malicious behavior.
We invited Dr. Richard Harknett to explain his theory of cyber persistence: specifically on how our failure to tailor our strategies to the uniqueness of the cyber domain limits our ability to confront the challenges we face.
Our adversaries actively exploit us because they see great benefit and little consequence in doing so.
I agree with Dr. Harknett that Cold War models of deterrence won’t work and look forward to hearing what he believes it will take to influence the mindset of our adversaries.
In addition to his writings on cyber deterrence and election attacks, Dr. Michael Sulmeyer has focused a great deal of his research on the organizational challenges we face as a government.
We understand that Dr. Sulmeyer is working on a paper addressing some of the challenges we examined during our full committee hearing in October on the whole-of-government approach to cybersecurity.
We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Sulmeyer on the gaps and seams he sees in our organizational model and what lessons we can learn from allies like the British.
Ms. Heather Conley provides an expertise in Russian politics and foreign policy.
Russia has yet to face serious consequences, in the cyber or other domains, for its 2016 elections interference; we look forward to Ms. Conley’s testimony on how the United States can tailor and implement these penalties and how the department can best deter or dissuade further Russian elections meddling.
We also look forward to the testimony of Mr. Bob Butler, who brings extensive cyber experience in both the Department of Defense and the private sector.
Mr. Butler has been involved in numerous studies on cyber deterrence, including the recent Defense Science Board task force on cyber deterrence.
Let me close by thanking our witnesses for their willingness to appear today before our subcommittee.
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