US Defense Secretary Hagel Addresses Cyber Jurisdiction in Hill Testimony

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Washington, DC – The fiscal year 2014 defense budget request significantly increases the Defense Department’s cyber capacity — an area where it lacks authority but has most of the assets, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Budget Committee here today (June 12).

The secretary and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared today before the House and Senate budget committees. In the House hearing, Hagel noted cyber is an interagency responsibility, with law assigning the Department of Homeland Security much of the lead responsibility, but with of the national capability centered in US Cyber Command.

The secretary noted that Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, Cybercom commander and director of the National Security Agency, was scheduled to testify on cybersecurity threats later in the day.

The interagency effort is going well, Hagel said, but he added that private-sector concerns are mounting.

“The bigger issues — the privacy issues, the business issues — [are] what I understand really led to the breakdown in your efforts here on the Hill in trying to find compromise legislation last December,” the secretary told the lawmakers. “That yet needs to be bolted together.”

Those issues complicate what the Pentagon can do, he added, because the Defense Department is chartered to protect only national security networks.

“When you veer out in the private sector, how far you can go, what legal authorities you have, what laws govern that, are, I think, the large area of some contested debate,” the secretary said.

Moreover, the secretary told the lawmakers that spending defense money on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the United States and overseas is a critically important part of US foreign policy that clearly in the national interest.

Hagel noted the National Guard, Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, in particular, have resources devoted to aiding in disasters. Around the world, he added, US defense funding for such programs will continue.

“We … have had over the years a significant capacity to help countries during these disasters,” Hagel said. “It’s clearly in our interests around the world, and it’s humanitarian. Where we can help, we will continue to help.”

National security is the Defense Department’s foremost mission, the secretary said. “But that unfolds into many areas,” he added.

“When you’re making friends around the world, when you’re developing partners and allies, you’re developing the next generation of global citizens who see America helping [them],” the secretary said. “I’d say that cuts right directly to the international interest and security of our country. And we can do that, and we have been doing it. We do it better probably than anybody does, in the military.”12

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