Cyberspace Solarium Commission forms to assess, combat security threats

On May 8, Sen. Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced the formal launch of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC). The commission will work to develop a consensus on a strategic approach to […]

On May 8, Sen. Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced the formal launch of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC). The commission will work to develop a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace.

As established by statute in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the CSC is a bipartisan effort to review the threats facing America in cyberspace and provide strategic guidance and policy recommendations on how to defend ourselves against cyber threats. The CSC is comprised of 14 commissioners from Congress, federal agencies, and relevant civilian professions and seeks to build a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against cyber-attacks of significant consequences as the world enters a new phase of cyberconflict.

A key piece of this agenda will be an effort to develop a comprehensive cyber policy, with specific policy recommendations to implement and prioritize this approach. This work will culminate with a public report and rollout, including briefings with the congressional committees on defense, intelligence, and homeland security discussing the CSC’s findings and recommendations.

“In the 21st century, our world is more connected than ever, and with this increasingly digital existence comes both new opportunities and new threats,” said Sen. King. “As an extremely connected society that values free speech, America is asymmetrically vulnerable to a variety of cyber-attacks compared to our most capable adversaries, and yet we are also deeply unprepared to protect ourselves from this growing danger. At this moment, we do not have a clear strategy to prevent bad actors from attacking our vital infrastructure, and with each passing moment of inaction, the risks grow graver. I deeply believe that the next crippling attack on our country will be a cyber-attack; from attacks on critical infrastructure such as our electrical grid, financial sector, or telecommunications network to further interference in our free and open elections, there are a number of vulnerable targets that our enemies could exploit in order to inflict serious harm on the American people.”

“Cyberspace is a decisive battlefield in the 21st century,” said Rep. Gallagher. “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.”

Over the course of the CSC’s efforts, the commission will hold regular information-gathering hearings to review the threats in cyberspace, both from nation states and non-state actors, and study a number of strategic options to defend the United States, including our political system, government and national security networks, the financial, industrial, energy and telecommunications sectors, and our citizens. This review will be conducted with an emphasis on building consensus and creating a set of strategic recommendations that maximize our national cyber resilience and capabilities to prevent attacks in the face of an ever-shifting global threat landscape.

The CSC was established in the 2019 NDAA in the spirit of the Solarium Project convened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. The original Solarium was created to develop a consensus strategy to deal with the Soviet Union as it was increasing its threats to the United States and our allies in the early days of the Cold War. The original Solarium succeeded in building upon the containment strategy that guided the U.S. through the Cold War ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In addition to King and Gallagher, the 14-member commission includes:

  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB)
  • Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)
  • Susan Gordon: Deputy Director of National Intelligence
  • David Norquist: Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • David Pekoske: Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Chris Wray: Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Frank Cilluffo: Director of the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security at Auburn University
  • Tom Fanning: Chairman, President, and CEO of the Southern Company
  • Chris Inglis: Professor of Cyber Security Studies at U.S. Naval Academy and former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency
  • Patrick Murphy: Former Congressman and former Under Secretary of the Army
  • Samantha Ravich: Vice Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and former principal deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Suzanne Spaulding: Senior Advisor for Homeland Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Under Secretary of National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security

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