McCain’s Cybersecurity Panel May Signal Committee Turf War

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By Daniel R. Stoller

Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) establishment of a Senate Armed Forces cybersecurity subcommittee Jan. 4 likely highlights a congressional turf war over U.S. cybersecurity oversight, a Senate staffer told Bloomberg BNA.

The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services announced Jan. 4 at a press briefing that he will establish a cybersecurity subcommittee. McCain said that the subcommittee was created because cybersecurity threats to the U.S. present “a long term challenge.”

However, the creation of the panel may be a way for McCain to “deepen the Armed Services Committee’s relevance,” the Senate staffer with knowledge of the matter said on background Jan. 4. There is definitely “jurisdictional warfare going on,” the staffer said.

The alleged hacking attacks by Russia on the U.S. played a role in the subcommittee’s creation, the staffer said. The new Armed Services cybersecurity subcommittee will give McCain a “hook on Russia” and allow him “to play in that sandbox,” the staffer said.

In December 2016, McCain pushed for the creation of a Senate select committee to delve into the alleged Russian hacking. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected the idea.

Jurisdiction Competition?

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and McCain have sparred in the past over leadership of cybersecurity issues, the staffer said.

The subcommittee announcement comes a day before McCain’s Armed Services panel holds a hearing on foreign cybersecurity threats to the U.S. Meanwhile, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), have scheduled a press conference to discuss cybersecurity recommendations to President-elect Donald Trump that competes directly with the McCain hearing.

McCain hasn’t been a strong supporter of Trump. McCaul is a Trump transition team adviser.

A spokesman for McCaul told Bloomberg BNA today that the chairman has no comments “regarding the actions in the Senate at this time.”

Bloomberg BNA’s e-mailed requests for comments to McCain and the Senate Armed Services panel weren’t immediately returned.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

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