Senator Wicker Leads Armed Services Republicans in CYBERCOM, SOCOM Hearing

April 10, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led his colleagues in examining the force posture of U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).


In his opening remarks, Senator Wicker applauded CYBERCOM’s efforts to modernize the Cyber Mission Force, secure critical national security infrastructure, and coordinate with international partners in the cyber domain to strengthen the overall U.S. defense posture.


Senator Wicker noted that under-resourcing of SOCOM despite growing demand for its capabilities is resulting in increased risk. SOCOM plays a key role in combatting China and Russia, conducting counterterrorism operations around the world against violent Islamic groups, and responding to our nation’s crises.


General Timothy D. Haugh, USAF, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of CYBERCOM, SOCOM Commander, General Bryan P. Fenton, USA, and Hon. Christopher P. Maier, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict testified before the committee.


Read Senator Wicker’s opening statement as delivered below or watch it here.


Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me say, Mr. Chairman that you and I are shoulder-to-shoulder on almost all of this: concern about the shortfalls that you mentioned, renewing Section 702, and doing so in a timely manner, and the support for the dual-hat concept.


I want to thank our witnesses for being here today.


And let me say, since we met last year, we’ve seen a troubling rise in cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure across the country and in U.S. territories. Foreign adversaries are exploiting vulnerabilities in our networks. They are evading detection while carrying out malicious activities, or prepositioning themselves for future malicious activities and attacks.


Today’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss CYBERCOM’s efforts against these dangers, to tell us areas where we need to bring immediate attention. We will talk about CYBERCOM’s work with federal partners in the U.S. government and in the defense industrial base. We will talk about their collective endeavors to improve our cyber resilience and to defend against threats to military systems and networks, as well as public and private critical infrastructure.


I also look forward to hearing about building “CYBERCOM 2.0.” The committee recognizes that cyber threats evolve quickly. We therefore need CYBERCOM to be equipped to address new challenges rapidly as our adversaries consistently shift tactics and strategies in this domain. As part of this discussion, I hope to learn more about how international cyber cooperation activities, improvements to cyber military personnel readiness, and investments in cyber intel can help U.S. cyber forces generate an enduring advantage in this dynamic threat environment.


General Haugh has been both the Commander of CYBERCOM and the Director of the NSA for only a very short period of time. So, we hope to hear his early analysis and ideas gained from this early experience with the dual-hat arrangement and the importance of maintaining leadership over both agencies to meet mission objectives more effectively. And again, the Chair and I are in the same place on this issue.


Separate but no less important are our Special Ops Forces. The men and women serving under General Fenton at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) are responsible for some of the nation’s most sensitive and complex missions and are often the first to respond to urgent and unforeseen emergencies around the world.


Yet SOCOM is facing a daunting challenge: It is being asked to build a force capable of combatting state actors like China and Russia simultaneously while remaining fully engaged in the fight against violent Islamic terrorist groups operating from Africa to South Asia. At the same time, special operators must be ready to respond with little-to-no notice as our nation’s preeminent crisis response force. So, we need to know what you need to accomplish this mission.


The demands on SOCOM are increasing. Meanwhile, it is being asked to accept significant risk because it is under-sourced. Its budget has remained flat since 2019. When you adjust that for inflation, this amounts to roughly a 14 percent budget cut in purchasing power. At the same time, SOCOM is in the midst of implementing two rounds of cuts to its force structure.


This committee will want to ensure General Fenton’s command is fully resourced so that it can mitigate risk. I would like to ask Secretary Maier whether their authorities and resources in the upcoming year are sufficient for mission requirement. Gentlemen, tell us what you need to get the mission done.


It is clear to me that the role and importance of Special Operations Command is greater today than at any time since its establishment back in ‘87. The resources we provide should reflect that necessity.


So, thank you, gentlemen, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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