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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro Q&A at House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on American Cyber Diplomacy

Feb 7, 2018
Press Release

As Delivered

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), yesterday had the following question and answer session with Mr. Christopher Painter, former U.S. Department of State Coordinator for Cyber Issues; Mr. John Miller, Vice President for Global Policy and Law, Cybersecurity, and Privacy at the Information Technology Industry Council; and Dr. Michael Sulmeyer, former U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Secretary of Defense Director for Plans and Operations for Cyber Policy at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on American cyber diplomacy:

Rep. Castro: “Thank you, Chairman.  Mr. Painter, as the Chairman noted, the State Department just announced that it plans to establish a new bureau for cyberspace in the digital economy.  Although elevating the issue of cyber diplomacy is positive, it strikes me as odd that the bureau would report to the Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment rather than the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs.

“Would the new assistant secretary be able to focus on the full range of cyber security and other critical issues under this arrangement?”

Mr. Christopher Painter: “I quite agree with you. I think that it’s not the ideal arrangement. I think the Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs, by their title and their responsibility, really has to have that economic perspective. That’s an important perspective to be sure.

“But if you look at all these issues as I talked about in my written testimony. That include hard issues of security, deterrence, incident response, issues around cyber operations, and military actions in cyberspace. That does not fit close in that substance of rubric.

“So you really need something more broad based. I think the Committee’s recommendations being under the Under-Secretary of Political affairs makes a lot more sense. It is a neutral reporting chain. They can deal with security issues. Human rights issues also don’t fit. There are sometimes conflicts between human rights issues and economic issues for instance. And security issues and economic issues. You want a place where you can have full voice of all those issues.

“Particularly, with security issues that are really facing us today. So I would say, that I applaud the fact that they’ve taken action. I think it’s great they’re elevating it. That’s exactly what should be done. But I would not put it under the Under-Secretary for Economic Affairs. I’ll put it, at a minimum, under the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs where you can have full voice on these issues.” 

Rep. Castro: “No, thank you. And I guess, let me ask you three gentlemen, whoever wants to answer-besides sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’m also on the Intelligence Committee.

“So, as you know, we’ve had for over a year now, had front row seats in understanding how Russia--Russian hacking--and basically cyber operations have affected our democracy. But the threats, as we’ve mentioned here in Committee, come not only from them, but other nations and non-state actors.

“So one of the issues I’ve been working on, and I know others have also, is the eventual development of mutual cyber defense treaties. Right now, you think about the existence of NATO for example, which mostly involves mutual defense when there is a physical intrusion from one country against another. In your vision of the future, what is the future for any kind of mutual response to cyber-attacks and cyber intrusions, if there is one?”

Mr. Painter: “Look, I think that’s paramount. As we look into sharpening our deterrence tools, one of things we need to do is work with likeminded partners who can work together to sanction bad actors in cyberspace. And whether it’s one by a treaty or other arrangement. Which I think to be more flexible and valuable in this case, like we did for instance in the proliferation security initiative, or money laundering, or other areas which I think probably may work better in the short term. That’s important.

“I can also say that some bilateral arrangements like with Australia and others, on larger defense issues, we’ve added cyber to that. Mutual defense treaties with those organizations are also involved in cyber and NATO has stepped up their game on cyber, including at the last summit, declaring it by name.”

Dr. Michael Sulmeyer: “I would say it’s a great idea, Congressman, to be pushing those kinds of arrangements. I would try to distinguish as times between when the treaty would come into effect during a crisis and in steady state.

“And I wouldn’t want to just reserve it for when things get hot. I would want to make sure that the information sharing and work is happening on steady state basis so you never have to really invoke the ones in crisis.”

Mr. John Miller: “Just to briefly add to those comments. Both my fellow witnesses, which I agree with. You know, I absolutely think it’s a good idea.

“As I mentioned, I mean it’s clear we need all the tools in the toolshed, as Mr. Painter testified earlier, and multilateral agreements and vehicles are really important, you know, as well as the work at NATO, certainly at a higher level. There have been some good agreements made at the G-7 and G-20. And if you look at other tools like the Budapest Convention.”

Rep. Castro: “It strikes me right now as a big gap or a void in our defense, really, that this is not fully flushed out essentially. That there really is no comprehensive agreement among friendly nations at least, or even strong bilateral agreements on a mutual cyber response, and when exactly you would respond, how you would respond, whether that involves private companies, for example, in the United States. So, my time is up, but thank you gentlemen for your testimony.”

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