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Ernst calls for enhanced security of undersea communication cables

This news story was published on November 3, 2015.
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Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In light of recent reports that Russian naval vessels have been operating along known routes of U.S. global communication undersea fiber optic cables, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), along with Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Roger Wicker (R-MS), sent a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson requesting information on steps taken to enhance the security of our vital undersea network.

As The New York Times reports: “Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.”

“As widely cited in reports, undersea communication cables are responsible for moving trillions of dollars in global business, more than 95 percent of daily communications, and matters extremely significant to our national security,” the Senators wrote. “While we respect that the location, security protocols and conditions of many cables are classified for national security, we are increasingly concerned about cables whose locations are well known, yet still carry data important to our economic and military functions. While fiber optic cables have revolutionized global communications, they make the U.S. incredibly vulnerable to attack in U.S. and in international waters.”

The Senators added, “With all due consideration to the classified nature of the cables and deep water drilling infrastructure, because of their significance to national security and energy supplies, we request information on what steps are being taken, and what steps need to be taken, in order to enhance the security of the undersea network on which the U.S. depends. Given the significant impact an attack could have on our economic stability, and cyber, energy, and national security, we write to ensure there is an effective effort between the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies to secure our nation.”

“Developing a national security strategy that incorporates the vulnerability of our undersea network is of the utmost importance and we wish to discuss this matter further with you in a classified setting, while doing everything possible to allow the public to know we are taking every step to maintain their security,” the Senators stressed.

In today’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing entitled, Future of Warfare,”Senator Ernst highlighted the letter, emphasizing their concern for Russia’s activities near some of the underwater cables. The Iowa Senator asked Mr. Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, whether he is concerned about the security of the undersea cables and whether it exists.

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