Cybersecurity

Intel chairman: We need more cyber offense

Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is reviving a dialogue between Congress and Cyber Command on the role of offense in U.S. cyber policy.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Oct. 1 he would like to see the United States go on the offensive in cyberspace more than it does, but that there is not a clear understanding across government of what an offensive policy entails.

The Michigan Republican said the Pentagon, the intelligence community and law-enforcement agencies must agree on attack protocols in the event Washington goes on the offensive in cyberspace.

"We haven't coordinated that policy," he told reporters after his appearance at a Washington Post-hosted conference. "We have disparate levels of cyber offensive capability across the federal government. ... Some are fantastic, some not so good and then [there are] some in the middle."

Topping the list of capable agencies is U.S. Cyber Command, a joint command formed in October 2010 to coordinate military cyberspace operations. Some two and a half years later, then-commander Gen. Keith Alexander told Congress the command was putting significant resources toward offensive cyber missions, with 13 cadres of specialists dedicated to the cause.

But at the March 2014 confirmation hearing for Alexander's successor, Adm. Michael Rogers, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he was troubled by what he saw as the administration's "lack of a cyber-deterrence policy and the failure to establish meaningful norms that punish bad behavior" from adversaries like Iran.

Adm. Rogers said later in the hearing that while Cyber Command plays a big part in cyber-deterrence, "developing norms within the cyber arena" will require a broader dialogue across government.

It was that dialogue that Rogers the congressman was reviving in his Oct. 1 public remarks.

"This is a broader policy debate on what offensive capabilities the United States should use against adversaries," Rep. Rogers told reporters, adding that the debate predated the rise of the Islamic State -- a group he said did not yet have the ability to launch cyberattacks on U.S. government networks.

"In my mind, we have the capability to be disruptive to their ability to recruit," he said. "We should use it."

Rep. Rogers said sorting out a federal hierarchy for offensive cyber operations is best done through an iterative dialogue and not necessarily through legislation.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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