During the 116th Congress, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse will serve as the only new member of the Select Intelligence Committee and as the Senate Republican designee on the newly-created Cyber Commission. Sasse will continue to serve on the Judiciary, Banking, and Joint Economic Committees.
“It is an honor to serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,” said Senator Sasse. “The Intel Committee has a unique national security role. Chairman Burr and Ranking Member Warner have worked closely on some of the most sensitive and pressing threats to the United States – from the returning challenge of competing powers like China and Russia to the continued threat of cyberwar. The Intelligence Committee is where Congress wrestles most frequently with these challenges, and I’m eager to work with my colleagues in open and closed session.”
“The Intel Committee is usually the first to dive into Congress’ national security debates and, given the serious nature of our work, it’s important that we work in a deliberate way,” said Chairman Burr. “Ben does his homework and is ready to help this committee provide oversight of our Intelligence Community’s work as we face down threats around the globe.”
Relatedly, Sasse was named by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to be a member of the Cyber Solarium Commission.
“We’re in the age of cyberwar and America isn’t ready for it,” said Senator Sasse. “Washington isn’t doing enough to protect the American people from new and emerging cyber threats from China, Russia, and other adversaries. I’ve been pushing Washington to get serious about these threats and draft a badly-needed cyber playbook. An offensive and defensive strategy is long overdue and this commission needs to work with urgency. Let’s get this done.”
Background From the Senate Select Intelligence Committee:
The Committee was created by the Senate in 1976 to “oversee and make continuing studies of the intelligence activities and programs of the United States Government,” to “submit to the Senate appropriate proposals for legislation and report to the Senate concerning such intelligence activities and programs,” and to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
While all Senators have access to classified intelligence assessments, access to intelligence sources and methods, programs, and budgets is generally limited to Intelligence Committee members (and to members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee). By law, the President is required to ensure that the Committee is kept “fully and currently informed” of intelligence activities—meaning that intelligence agencies are required, generally in writing, to notify the Committee of its activities and analysis. This includes keeping the Committee informed of covert actions and any significant intelligence failure.
More information is available here.
Background on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission:
Proposed by Senator Sasse, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission was signed into law by President Trump as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019.
Senator Sasse 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 “Cyberspace 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 14-member commission is 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.
More information is available here.