With threats, Gardner renews call for permanent U.S. Senate select committee on cybersecurity

December 12, 2016 Updated: December 12, 2016 at 4:30 pm
photo - In this Sept. 29, 2014 photo, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks at a political rally at Heritage High School, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Sept. 29, 2014 photo, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks at a political rally at Heritage High School, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley) 

News that U.S. intelligence is increasingly certain Russian hackers interfered in the U.S. presidential election struck a major chord with Cory Gardner, the Republican U.S. senator from Colorado.

While President-elect Donald Trump was quick to mock the claims, Gardner, a warrior on cybersecurity, said they provide more evidence of an emerging threat that demands attention. Gardner also doesn't like Trump in the least, having called him a "buffoon" and urged him to drop out of the race during the campaign.

Gardner on Monday renewed his effort to create a permanent committee in the U.S. Senate to deal with cybersecurity, "narrowly focused on providing oversight of our strategy to protect sensitive data, defend our networks, and to deter malicious cyber actors."

Gardner chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy.

"Cybersecurity policy is one of the most significant and complex challenges facing Congress, yet the Senate's current structure to address cyber attacks remains inefficient," he said in a statement Monday, citing the Russian hackers as the latest example.

Gardner said Congressional Research Service indicates at least 19 standing committees in the House and Senate have held hearings related to cybersecurity.

Monday represents Gardner's latest attempt to move cybersecurity to the forefront of the political discussions about national security.

Last June, he and Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, created the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus as a forum for lawmakers regardless of their committee assignments to become educated on the threats.

"Cybersecurity is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, and both the private and the public sector need to be better prepared to address the escalating threat from cyberattacks." Warner, a former technology executive and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time.

"So far this Congress, nine Senate committees have held hearings on this issue, focusing on aspects as diverse as protecting taxpayer information from cyber theft, the development of deterrent technologies targeted at foreign actors, and the need to secure our infrastructure against intrusion," Warner said.

"These hearings provide useful insight into the many aspects of our cyber vulnerability. However, the attack surface is rapidly expanding, and the cyber threat is a systemic one."

The issue has a major focus in Colorado Springs. The nonprofit National Cybersecurity Center opened Nov. 1 in a former manufacturing plant near the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The legislature in April provided $8 million to renovate the site with the idea that the emerging cybersecurity industry will become an economic driver for the state.

The center's mission is "develop workforce, collaborate with the private sector, military and federal agencies, and support and educate the public sector to better protect our cities, states and national assets," according to its website,

Colorado Springs is home to about 100 cybersecurity companies, as well as a strong military investment in the issue, said Andrea Young, president and CEO of the Colorado Technology Association, which led the effort to create the National Cybersecurity Center.

She said the association supports Gardner's efforts to better-educate policymakers.

"It's a threat to so many aspects of commerce and public safety," she said. "And it's something that has to be elevated in our conversation, not just between techs but dialogue between people in positions of responsibility in business and government."

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