National Security
August 13, 2018
Can the U.S. meet the cyberwar challenge?

Military spending, a nuclear arms race and a growing threat of cyberwarfare are dominating the national security agenda in 2018. With U.S. troops engaged in combat in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Congress in February authorized the Pentagon’s largest budget ever. Cyberattacks, meanwhile, are growing. A new Defense Department document declared that “strategic competition [among nations], not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.” The government itself is divided over which nations are of concern, however, as President Trump questioned assessments that Russia targeted the U.S. election in 2016. And nuclear arms races escalated as North Korea tested long-range nuclear weapons; Pakistan, India and China expanded their nuclear programs; the United States and Russia continued to modernize their arsenals; and Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. (AFP/Getty Images/Alexey Nikolsky)   President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. (AFP/Getty Images/Alexey Nikolsky)

On July 13, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned of ongoing Russian cyberattacks against the United States.

“The warning lights are blinking red again,” he said, comparing Russian activities to the ominous intelligence chatter just before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. The Russians, Coats said, are targeting “government and businesses in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors,” while continuing their social media and propaganda efforts to sow divisions in the American electorate.

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