The bi-partisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission, comprised of Congressional members, former government officials and private sector executives tasked with forming a strategy to defend the nation against cyber attacks, has previewed its initial set of recommendations ahead of a March 11 public reveal.
Officials said the report will include some 75 calls to action for Congress and President Trump not only to protect the country from cyber attacks but also to defend the nation’s election infrastructure. Members presented the recommendation topics in an event held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.
The group’s advisory comes in the wake of the 2016 Russian election meddling and eight months before the 2020 elections. One suggestion will be to add a fifth commissioner to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to break partisan gridlock of the independent, four-member organization, particularly to tackle election security, The Hill reported.
“We think it’s a lost cause to try to rebalance the commission totally, but for this case we think it’s important to have a special member ... to try to break the deadlock, otherwise we’re stuck,” Sen. Angus King (I-E), who co-chairs the commission, told The Hill. Most recently, the EAC has portioned out $425 million in federal funds granted to the states for election security as part of the 2020 appropriations bill.
Included in its slate of recommendations, the commission will also recommend that the EAC help states allocate funding to use paper ballots for voting, King reportedly said. Another recommendation tags onto an election security bill proposed by senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) to ban foreign governments from buying online ads to influence U.S. elections. As it stands now, the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (DETER) calls for new sanctions targeting Russia’s finance, defense and energy sectors should U.S. intelligence determine that Russia interfered in another federal election. The measure has languished in the Senate, among a host of other similar security measures, without an up or down floor vote for months. Attempts to pass some of the bills with unanimous consent have failed.
In addition, the commission will recommend restricting foreign individuals from buying advertisements on social media without adhering to the same laws as political advertisements on traditional media outlets.
The commission is the offspring of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), named after a Cold War Era initiative during the Eisenhower administration called the Solarium Project. Its membership includes FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, Co-Chairman and Rep. Michael Gallagher (R-WI), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), and former Deputy Director of the National Security Agency Chris Inglis.
While the 2019 NDAA gave the commission a September 1 deadline to submit its report to Congress, the House version of the 2020 NDAA calls for a September 1, 2020 deadline and the Senate’s version a February 2, 2020 due date.