Washington: On Capitol Hill, your committee is only as powerful as what it oversees. And with cybersecurity one of the biggest issues going nowadays, lawmakers are falling all over themselves to get a piece of that pie.
Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) made his play during today’s confirmation hearing for DoD’s new global strategic affairs chief Madelyn Creedon.
McCain proposed creation of a new Senate Select Committee on Cyber Security. The oversight panel, likely a carbon copy of the Senate’s intelligence committee, would clear up a lot of the ambiguity on cyber-related issues on the Hill.
The problem with cyber oversight responsibilities is that a large number of congressional committees can make a viable argument for control. The armed services committees can make the claim, rightfully so, for oversight of cyberwarfare operations by DoD and the services.
Then again, efforts to attack targets in the United States falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is seemingly overseen by every office on Capitol Hill except for the House Sargent At Arms.
And since 90 percent of DoD’s cyber warriors reside in the National Security Agency the House and Senate intelligence committees have a strong claim as well.
This bureaucratic traffic jam of authorities and responsibilities has left the Pentagon and other agencies working cyber issues in the lurch, McCain said.
Taking the Pentagon’s recently released cyber strategy as an example, the Arizona lawmaker claimed it missed some “fundamental questions” tied to cyber security and cyberwarfare policy — questions that could have been raised and addressed by a standing oversight committee.
One of those questions, McCain continued, is whether a breach of DoD’s networks in March could be considered an act of war.
Creedon agreed with McCain that competition among committees for cyber oversight has been a problem, but a problem the Hill would have to solve.
On whether or not the March attack deserved a response in kind by U.S. forces, Creedon said current Pentagon policy, simply put, “is very uncertain”.