New White House national security strategy light on cyber specifics
The Biden administration on Wednesday issued its national security strategy, reaffirming its commitment to strengthening the country’s digital defenses and combating cybercriminals, while providing few new details.
The long-awaited document was originally expected earlier this year but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other world events prompted the White House to reexamine its priorities. By law, presidents are required to submit a national security strategy annually, but administrations often fail to do so. Biden did not deliver one last year.
“This strategy is not a detailed accounting of every single challenge and opportunity America faces,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters during a press call. “It touches on our plans in every region of the world, but it tries to take a broader brush at how we intend to seize this decisive decade to advance America's vital interests.”
The 48-page document — issued the day after the White House released a fact sheet detailing a range of steps it has taken to enhance the nation’s cybersecurity — makes glancing mentions of cyber in relation to the overarching challenges posed by foreign adversaries like Russia and China. It only devotes one brief segment to the topic, titled “Securing Cyberspace,” which is essentially a retread of previous administration statements and pledges.
The section notes that societies and the critical infrastructure that gird them are “increasingly digital and vulnerable to disruption or destruction via cyberattacks,” especially by Moscow.
“We are working closely with allies and partners, such as the Quad, to define standards for critical infrastructure to rapidly improve our cyber resilience, and building collective capabilities to rapidly respond to attacks,” it states, referring to the security partnership between the U.S., Australia, India and Japan.
The U.S. has a “clear interest in strengthening norms that mitigate cyber threats and enhance stability in cyberspace,” according to the strategy. “We aim to deter cyber attacks from state and non-state actors and will respond decisively with all appropriate tools of national power to hostile acts in cyberspace, including those that disrupt or degrade vital national functions or critical infrastructure.”
The small section also highlights that the Biden team has worked to counter online criminals and “launched innovative partnerships, to expand law enforcement cooperation, deny sanctuary to cyber criminals and counter illicit use of cryptocurrency to launder the proceeds of cybercrime.”
And it vows that Washington will “continue to promote adherence to the UN General Assembly-endorsed framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, which recognizes that international law applies online, just as it does offline.”
The administration could offer new details when it issues its national cybersecurity strategy. That document was expected in September, but last month, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis signaled it has been delayed due to a flood of feedback from the public and private sectors.
National Security Strategy on Scribd
Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.