Biden’s Defense Nominees Push for Countering Cyber Threats and China’s Tech Progress

The Defense Department needs to pursue cybersecurity improvements and creative, agile operational concepts to quickly reach technological advantages and prepare for concerning potential elements of next-generation warfare, according to several of President Joe Biden’s nominees for top agency roles. 

“Today, we have entered a new era of strategic competition and we must update our policies, our operations, our capabilities and our workforce to meet the moment,” said Alexandra Baker, the administration’s pick to serve as the deputy Defense undersecretary for policy. “I believe that there is no time to waste.” 

Baker spoke Tuesday at a nomination hearing held by the Senate Armed Services to consider Nickolas Guertin to be the DOD’s director of operational test and evaluation; John Coffey to be general counsel of the Navy; and Douglas Bush to be the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. 

Echoing the Defense secretary and interim guidance from the administration, Baker referred to China as a “pacing” challenge and threat. 

“It is the only competitor that is capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system,” she said. “To meet this challenge, we will need to invest in capabilities that are relevant not only to the last fight—but to future ones.”

The hearing comes not long after the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as the nation faces increasingly serious threats in cyberspace, like complex new risks to critical infrastructure and ransomware attacks that have immobilized American schools and hospitals. During the hearing, the nominees noted that non-state and state actors are quietly working to exploit America’s vulnerabilities in the virtual domain and developing powerful weapons to use in the real world—such as hypersonic missiles, which travel much faster than the speed of sound. 

“I think that [China has] pursued a strategy of seeking to blunt U.S. advantages over a number of years. So not only in terms of hypersonics, but space and counter space, cyber—all of these are areas that,…