Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) says the Trump administration needs to get serious about cyberdefense. And he’s taking some cues from history with the hope of kicking the administration into action. Tucked in a massive defense policy bill Congress appears poised to pass in the coming weeks is a measure from Sasse that would create a commission of top national security officials, lawmakers and experts to draw up a comprehensive cyberdefense strategy for the country. The proposal is based on the Project Solarium Commission, a Cold War effort President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched in the 1950s to counter the Soviet threat. It’s another way Congress is trying to force President Trump’s hand in developing a clear doctrine for how the United States responds to cyberthreats from nation states like Russia, which Trump refuses to unequivocally state interfered in the 2016 election. As Trump waffles on Russia’s interference in the election, and his White House sheds top cybersecurity talent, the measure would give Congress and its hand-picked experts a more direct role in steering the national discussion.
“We need to have real debate if we’re going to produce a consensus-based framework to defend the country in cyberspace,” Sasse told me in an email. “The Commission will be successful if it helps finally define for our government how, when, and where we will seek to deter America’s adversaries; how we will organize government to ensure dominance in the new battlefield; and how government appropriately recruits and partners with the expertise and talent of the private sector.”
The 14-member “Cyberspace Solarium Commission” would consist of the director of the FBI and top deputies from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. The remaining commissioners would be members of Congress and “nationally recognized” cybersecurity experts picked by House and Senate leaders from both parties.
The goal is to produce a “clean and coherent plan for deterring and defending our country from cyber attacks” by September 2019, Sasse said.