ICYMI: Inhofe Questions Nominees at SASC Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone to be Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, Director of the National Security Agency, and Chief of the Central Security Service; Dr. Brent Park to be Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration; and Ms. Anne Marie White to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management.

 Click to watch Sen. Inhofe’s introduction.

As prepared for delivery:

The Committee meets today to consider the nominations of Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone to be Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, Director of the National Security Agency, and Chief of the Central Security Service; Dr. Brent Park to be Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration; and Ms. Anne Marie White to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management.

We thank you for joining us this morning. We also welcome your family and friends here with us today. As is our tradition, at the beginning of your testimony we invite you to introduce those who are joining you.

It is the standard for this Committee to ask certain questions in order to exercise its legislative and oversight responsibilities. I’d ask that you each provide a yes or no response to the following questions:

Have you adhered to applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest?

Will you ensure that your staff complies with deadlines established for requested communications, including questions for the record in hearings?

Will you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to Congressional requests?

Will those witnesses be protected from reprisal for their testimony or briefings?

Do you agree, if confirmed, to appear and testify upon request before this Committee?

Do you agree to provide documents, including copies of electronic forms of communication, in a timely manner when requested by a duly constituted Committee, or to consult with the Committee regarding the basis for any good faith delay or denial in providing such documents?

Have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process?

General Nakasone, if confirmed, you will become the first commander of U.S. Cyber Command as a unified combatant command.

Creating the unified command is an important step, but much work remains for you to do—especially with regard to centralizing the responsibilities currently spread across DOD, FBI, and the DHS in order to improve coordination and increase accountability. Another one of your top priorities if confirmed must be ensuring Cyber Command readiness. If the Services do not deliver the required tools, capabilities, and personnel, we are in danger of a hollow cyber force.

Two days ago, Admiral Rogers was repeatedly questioned by this committee on the role of Cyber Command, and specifically his command’s response to the Russian disinformation campaign around our 2016 presidential election. Unfortunately the partisan propensity to discredit our President consumed over half of that hearing.  Therefore, to make that the sole focus of Cyber Command and this hearing would be doing a disservice in two ways:

First, it assumes that Cyber Command action would be the only response to the Russian disinformation campaign, when in reality it should be a whole of government approach—especially given that disinformation is just part of the threat that Russia poses to the United States. If confirmed, it will be your responsibility to provide insight and recommendations to policy makers on the whole of government approach to respond to these attempts.  

Second, and perhaps more problematic for the committee’s role today, it neglects the full scope of the U.S. Cyber Command. The stated mission of Cyber Command is to defend the homeland, defend military computer networks, and develop and employ military cyber capabilities. That is a robust task, and the Committee should ensure that General Nakasone is fully vetted on all aspects of the command.

The National Defense Strategy makes clear that renewed great power competition with Russia and China leaves every domain—including cyber—contested. Without cohesion across the entire government we will remain at a significant disadvantage. This committee looks forward to hearing how you will address these important issues.

Dr. Park, you have been nominated to oversee the NNSA’s mission to detect, secure, and dispose of dangerous nuclear and radiological material. If confirmed, the committee expects you to address the proliferation of nuclear and radiological materials among both state and non-state actors, develop technologies to detect nuclear and radiological proliferation worldwide, and collaborate internationally to ensure the secure and safe expansion of global nuclear energy.

Ms. White, if confirmed, you will be responsible for the safe and timely cleanup of our nuclear waste. Unfortunately, the environmental office at DOE has been plagued with project management issues, safety concerns, and continuous technical challenges. The committee will look to you for recommendations on how to reduce the risk associated with this office.

Watch Sen. Inhofe’s Q&A here.