Cyber-terror and Cyber-attacks are the most serious threats to National Security.
This afternoon I had the pleasure of sitting with Senator Diane Feinstein and enjoying her perspective on a broad range of issues impacting America. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, CONNECT, and the SD Regional Economic Development Corporation regularly collaborate to bring elected representatives together with business leaders to discuss issues of great important to our industries, our economy, and our citizens. These intimate opportunities
are an important ingredient in the “secret sauce” of San Diego – an efficiently-aligned, private-sector business community that works well with our elected leaders and the public sector. This is how San Diego maintains a diverse and successful economy.
As the recent past Chairman of the Chamber Board and the incoming Chair of the San Diego Economic Development Corporation, I have the opportunity to spend time with elected officials who’s votes can dramatically affect my specific business, the region, our nation, and the entire economy. Therefore, part of my job on these boards is to listen without partisanship or prejudice and make sure we are offering actionable solutions to elected officials while insuring they are also listening to us.
Today, Senator Feinstein spent a large chunk-of-time meeting with us and then spending an hour giving us her candid views on our national/international challenges and opportunities. I will not go into everything she covered at my table but when she rose to speak to the group, she had a number of very insightful comments which I would like to share with all of you.
First, the Senator discussed the true size of the end-of-year “Fiscal Cliff”. [In an earlier post I described this as the “Self-Inflicted Wound” we foisted upon our nation.].
1. Unemployment Extension End
2. Education Credits End
3. Payroll-Tax holiday Ends
4. Sequestration goes into effect
5. Bush/Obama Tax Cuts End
6. Capital Gain/Inheritance Rate Cuts End
Estimated impact if all of these were to hit at once ? 3% negative GDP growth in 2013/14. Millions of jobs nationwide and a loss of 250,000 jobs in California. It is simply unacceptable to allow this madness to happen to all of America.
We also discussed the 4 distinct elements of the budget; defense, entitlements, interest, domestic.
We discussed the concept of compromise and problem-solving that would be required of a new 2013 Administration and Congress because the current partisan-gridlock is only fulfilling someone’s sick chaos-theory fantasy ( sick chaos-theory fantasy are my words, not hers).
We covered a lot of ground and the conversation was meaty and rich in content. She is a very capable representative of the people. She had a clear grasp on many specifics related to US security.
One thing she discussed was the fact that the right spending is good for America. For example, she discussed the fact that in 2009/10, the FBI added 10,000 agents to create a new group focused on interdiction of terrorist plots within the US. Many derided the spending increase as bloated government spending and adding to the debt. However, the administration pushed through the resistance and the FBI expanded.
The Senate is releasing a non-classified report today that details how just in 2012, the FBI has already thwarted 20 planned attacks on the US homeland from – in many cases – home-grown bad-guys attempting to do the US harm. These were not attacks in the theory or inspirational stage. In many cases the bad guys thought they were actually pulling the trigger or taking the shot at their bad deed. You have heard of some of theses instances in the news. In every case, the FBI had already infiltrated the groups and foiled the plots. With a combination of human and electronic intelligence, the modern FBI is on the job. The FBI s stronger than it has ever been. The bad guys are in prison and the country safer as a result. The country is safer because we invested in our security.
However, our ears really perked up when the Senator addressed what really keeps her, and fellow members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, up at night. Cyber-Security.
This is how Senator Feinstein so appropriately responded when asked how she would answer the most important question asked at last night’s debate:
“What is the greatest threat to National security?”
If you recall:
The President answered terrorism in its many forms.
Governor Romney answered a nuclear armed Iran.
Both are correct in their own ways; however what got missed is the real-time threat that could cripple our entire national infrastructure, leave us defenseless, strike without warning, wreck our national economy, and send us back to the 50’s in terms of infrastructure.
Senator Feinstein’s response:
Cyber-threats. Cyber-warfare. Cyber-terrorism.
She is right on point.
It was revealed that the Royal Bank of Scotland was robbed of millions a few years back as were a number of other large financial institutions. Bank robbers armed with a mouse.
Numerous attacks on Pentagon computers, the electrical grid and threats too classified to discuss are going on daily. Nations are fighting virtual-wars over the net; probing for weakness and often finding back-door opportunities via weak private-sector network infrastructure. All of us in the private-sector need to take cyber-terrorism much more seriously or we’re going to look back and wonder: “what the hell happened while we were digitally sleeping?”
Our national government has been fighting back -with vigor. Although no one will confirm it, someone successfully stopped, damaged, sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program without firing a shot. Cyber-warfare is real and our country seeks to dominate the playing field. We just need to make sure our State’s, Counties, Cities, Public Infrastructure systems, and private-enterprises are doing everything they can to secure their network infrastructure. Now is the time for public-private partnerships to solidify their focus on a long-term cyber-strategy.
San Diego is fortunate to have the SPAWAR (Space Warfare) Command in our back-yard. It is a well known concept that in many circles, the Pentagon considers Cyber-Warfare the most important branch of the service. SPAWAR is the government’s flagship operation and conducts the most dynamic threat-mitigation and combats Cyber-attacks. Many of the best-and-brightest Americans work at SPAWAR. Cyber-security is that important to our country.
We are also fortunate that San Diego is home to many of the most dynamic, bleeding-edge organizations focused on hardening our National Cyber-Infrastructure. This is why the Senator’s timely comments mean so much to our nation and specifically for San Diego. If the brain-trust defending the nation from cyber-threats is already in San Diego, the bad guys can’t be too far away. We must all be vigilant.
America is going to need to get back to smart investing (spending). Expanding our Cyber-Security infrastructure will mitigate the greatest threat to our National Security. Our country knows how to do it and San Diego is ready to play an important role.
Terrorism and a nuclear-armed Iran are real threats to National Security. Cyber-Threats and Cyber -Terrorism is the most serious threat to National Security.