An empty chair fielded question after question from an angry Senate panel Thursday, after a White House cybersecurity coordinator invoked executive privilege and skipped the hearing. Representatives from the FBI, the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security testified beside the empty chair, telling the Senate Armed Services Commitee they are working to increase coordination and communication. But much of the hearing was focused on Rob Joyce’s empty chair, which Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said showed “a fundamental misalignment between authority and accountability” in cybersecurity efforts at a time when Russians are meddling in an attempt to “destroy the fundamentals of democracy.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said the lack of federal coordination leaves local governments “by themselves to fight a sophisticated cyber-adversary like Russia.”
She repeatedly asked Christopher Krebs, of the Pentagon’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, whether the agency had the funds, or intent, to bolster state cyber defenses. Krebs said the agency is “exploring its options.”
When Warren asked if the agency was “prepared to fully prevent another round of cyber intrusions into our election systems in 2018 and 2020,” Krebs said there is “still work to be done.”
“We are not going to flip a switch and be 100 percent secure,” he said.