A new report from the Congressional Research Service presents an introduction to U.S. military operations in cyberspace and the thorny policy issues that arise from them.
“This report presents an overview of the threat landscape in cyberspace, including the types of offensive weapons available, the targets they are designed to attack, and the types of actors carrying out the attacks. It presents a picture of what kinds of offensive and defensive tools exist and a brief overview of recent attacks. The report then describes the current status of U.S. capabilities, and the national and international authorities under which the U.S. Department of Defense carries out cyber operations.”
The Department of Defense requested $5.1 billion for “cybersecurity” in 2015, the CRS report noted. Cybersecurity here includes funding for cyberspace operations, information assurance, U.S. Cyber Command, the National Cybersecurity Initiative, and related functions. See Cyber Operations in DoD Policy and Plans: Issues for Congress, January 5, 2015.
(The CRS report includes only a capsule summary description of the Stuxnet episode. A fuller account is presented in Kim Zetter’s gripping book Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon.)
Other noteworthy new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.
State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief, December 24, 2014
The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action of November 20, 2014: Overview and Issues, January 8, 2015
Proposed Retirement of A-10 Aircraft: Background in Brief, January 5, 2015
American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, January 2, 2015
A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, December 31, 2014
Secret Sessions of the House and Senate: Authority, Confidentiality, and Frequency, December 30, 2014
Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, December 24, 2014
Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for Congress, December 23, 2014
Definitions of “Inherently Governmental Function” in Federal Procurement Law and Guidance, December 23, 2014
Congressional Careers: Service Tenure and Patterns of Member Service, 1789-2015, January 3, 2015
The Congressional Research Service has never been more frequently cited or more influential in informing public discourse than it is today, as its publications are increasingly shared with the public in violation of official policy.
But budget cuts and congressional dysfunction seem to have bred discontent among some staff members, judging from an article by former CRS analyst Kevin R. Kosar.
“Thanks to growing pressure from a hyper-partisan Congress, my ability to write clearly and forthrightly about the problems of government–and possible solutions–was limited. And even when we did find time and space to do serious research, lawmakers ignored our work or trashed us if our findings ran contrary to their beliefs. When no legislation is likely to move through the system, there’s simply not much market for the work the CRS, at its best, can do,” he wrote. See “Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service,” Washington Monthly, January/February 2015.