WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today participated in a full committee hearing examining the nomination of Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to be the next commander of United States Cyber Command (CYBERCOM).
In his remarks, Wicker observed that the evolving threats in cyberwarfare capabilities are unlike anything the U.S. has seen before. Wicker emphasized the need for a proactive military posture in cyberspace and increased capabilities to combat new threats.
“In recent months, we have seen an increase in ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure and aggressive cyber espionage operations on U.S. networks by our near-peer adversaries,” Wicker said. “Software vulnerabilities and weak network perimeter security have added to the nation’s defensive challenges and threaten our strategic stability and decisive advantage in cyberspace, and we must keep that decisive advantage.”
Wicker also expressed concerns about cyber readiness, highlighting the challenges faced in recruiting and retaining top-tier cyber talent. He also cited the value of partnerships in defending the nation’s cybersecurity.
Read Senator Wicker’s full opening statement below or watch it here.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you General Haugh for being here. And I join the distinguished chairman in welcoming your family.
You have been nominated by the president for Commander of the United States Cyber Command. If confirmed, you will be directly responsible for planning and executing U.S. global cyber operations, activities, and missions to defend our national interests across the full spectrum of competition and conflict in cyberspace. This includes DOD cyberspace operations, enhancing the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Cyber Mission Force, and improving the readiness of the nation’s cyber personnel to counter malicious cyber actors in a changing digital domain.
This hearing comes at a pivotal moment for defending cyberspace. General Nakasone, our nation’s outgoing Commander of Cyber Command, has said the growth in cyberwarfare capabilities by our near-peer adversaries, like China, is unlike anything he has seen before. In recent months, we have seen an increase in ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure and aggressive cyber espionage operations on U.S. networks by our near-peer adversaries. Software vulnerabilities and weak network perimeter security have added to the nation’s defensive challenges and threaten our strategic stability and decisive advantage in cyberspace, and we must keep that decisive advantage. Advancements in technologies, such as artificial intelligence, are also poised to change the pace of the threats we face. Given these challenges, the committee would like to learn how you plan to address the most pressing national security challenges facing our nation in cyberspace. Specifically, I am interested in hearing what you would do to ensure CYBERCOM’s “defend forward” and “persistent engagement” strategies. Those strategies support a proactive military posture in cyberspace and remain capable of disrupting malicious cyber activity at its source and keep pace with an evolving threat.
I am concerned that our cyber readiness may suffer because of cyber mission forces serving brief tours at CYBERCOM and, the chair mentioned this in his statement, the services providing personnel to CYBERCOM who lack necessary cyber skills, technical expertise, and training. I would welcome your views on how to correct readiness shortfalls within the Cyber Mission Force, including how you would work with the services to align training across the Department and increase the resiliency of the cyber workforce.
Strengthening partnerships across the government, the private sector, and among our allies is also key to defending our national interests in a constantly evolving threat environment. These include Hunt Forward Operations, in which cyber operators are deployed abroad to identify vulnerabilities and malware on the networks of partner nations. The UNDER ADVISEMENT program, which creates a forum for threat-information sharing with industry, is another example of Cyber Command’s unique contributions to national security. These two initiatives exemplify how our cyber forces augment homeland and network defenses while also exposing adversary tactics before they can be used against us in the United States. I hope you will speak to how you would prioritize partnerships to meet the growing complexity of challenges in the cyber domain.
If confirmed, General, you would serve as the Chief of the Central Security Service and would take on a dual-hatted role as Director of the National Security Agency. And so, we’ll be interested in hearing your perspective on the dual-hat arrangement and how it impacts CYBERCOM’s ability to fulfill its individual mission.
So, thank you very much General, and thank you Mr. Chairman.