"We don’t have a playbook. It’s time to draft one."

Today, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse announced that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 includes the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bold project to forge consensus around an American cyber strategy for the 21st century. Modeled after President Eisenhower’s 1953 Solarium Commission to develop America’s “New Look” strategy for the Cold War, Sasse’s Cybersecurity Solarium Commission was passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee last night. 

"The United States does not have a serious cyber strategy but our enemies do," said Senator Sasse. "Hybrid warfare is already here and America is not ready. We desperately need a top-to-bottom review of our cyber posture. After years of cyber attacks from adversaries like Russia, China, and North Korea, Washington has admitted that we don’t have a broadly understood cyber doctrine and we aren’t effectively deterring these attacks. We lack a doctrine that defines how, when, and where we play offense and defense. We don’t have a playbook. It’s time to draft one." 

Background on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission:

The United States does not have a coherent cyber doctrine. We do not effectively deter attacks. We do not know how to best organize our government, increase coordination between government agencies, or recruit and retain top talent and expertise for the defense of American interests in cyberspace.

To meet these challenges, Senator Sasse has proposed a Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Loosely modeled on President Eisenhower’s 1953 Solarium Commission, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission is designed to develop clear consensus on a strategic approach to protecting and defending the United States in cyberspace. While 21st century threats are more complex and dynamic than the 20th century threat of Soviet Russia, our lack of clarity in the cyber domain makes the imperative for a new “Cyber Solarium” greater. America needs its government to do the hard work of developing an intellectual, political, and military framework to defend the nation from cyber threats.

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission has been included in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019.

If enacted into law, the 13-member commission will be composed by representatives from the Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and private sector who have demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and experience in both the cyberspace and national security fields. 

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission will guide a deliberate, structured debate that will produce a final report that outlines a path forward for the United States Government by September 1, 2019. This report will be submitted to the congressional defense committees, the congressional intelligence committees, the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Homeland Security.

While final text of the NDAA has been embargoed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, a more detailed one-pager on the commission’s membership, duties, and deadlines is available here. 

Historical Background on Eisenhower’s Project Solarium:

Under the Eisenhower Administration, Project Solarium produced the strategy that would guide American policy for much of the Cold War.

In May 1953, President Eisenhower established a secret panel of experts to review Cold War strategy and develop a range of policy responses to address the growing threat from the Soviet Union. This became known as Project Solarium and is considered one of the best examples of American long-term strategic planning for national security.

President Eisenhower commissioned three teams of experts, including Russia expert and strategist George Kennan, the author of “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” to advocate for an assigned policy approach and develop options for the United States Government to pursue. The White House was given three strategies: containment, deterrence, and rollback.

President Eisenhower eventually decided to combine the work of all three teams and issue a new security directive, NSC 162/2, that provided the foundation for his “New Look” at U.S. grand strategy.