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Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BROWN of Massachusetts. Madam President, I rise today to speak about the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts and its role in our Nation's cybersecurity.

I want to clarify a situation we face as a nation. First, the Secretary of Defense has said loudly and clearly that the threat of cyber attacks on our country and the need for America to develop strong military capabilities keeps him up at night, and it keeps me and many other people up as well. We read about the cyber attacks by the Chinese, and we read about Iran. The Secretary has described it as an evolving and urgent threat in our future. Our Nation's security depends on winning the battle in cyberspace.

Unfortunately, the Air Force is in the midst of a four-structure change that ignores the crucial facts I have just stated. At a time when cyber threats are growing more important each day, the Air Force is making questionable decisions that, in my opinion, create an unnecessary risk to our Nation's cyber defenses and our ability to deal with those very threats. It makes absolutely no sense at this point in time.

That is why just a few weeks ago the House and Senate Armed Services Committee took strong action to prevent what the entire Massachusetts delegation believed was a premature proposal by the Air Force to reduce Hanscom's leadership from a three-star general to a two-star general.

The elimination of the ESC commander position at Hanscom will diminish our cyber capabilities and focus across the entire force, and that is not good at this point in time. That is the last thing we need in the midst of a cyber attack.

In response, Representative Tsongas of Massachusetts inserted a provision in this year's National Defense Authorization Act that was passed by the full House of Representatives which required the Secretary of the Air Force to remain and retain core functions at Hanscom as they existed on November 1, 2011. Her language was aimed at retaining Hanscom's three-star leadership.

Similarly, I worked with Senator Lieberman and our Senate Armed Services Committee to include language in the Senate Armed Services markup reported version of the Defense authorization bill that directs the Air Force to keep in place the current leadership rank structure until the two defense committees have had an opportunity to review the recommendations of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.

Given Secretary Panetta's warning, I believe we must pay particular attention to any changes that relate to cybersecurity. The Massachusetts delegation has been united in declaring that both Hanscom's mission and the senior leadership should be preserved in order to bring forth the best cyber capabilities our country has to offer.

Both defense committees have spoken with one voice to the Air Force: Stand down with this change until both committees receive more information about how the proposed force structure changes will impact our cybersecurity.

I also wish to explain why the delegation feels so strongly about this. Massachusetts has been a national security and information technology leader for many decades. Groundbreaking innovation in cybersecurity is taking place in Massachusetts as we speak--perhaps more than any other State in our entire Nation. That innovation is happening at Hanscom, at universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in our defense sector. Our capabilities are second to none.

The Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom has unlimited potential to take on future missions and future threats in the realm of cybersecurity. The Air Force and the MIT Lincoln Lab are now upgrading their partnership to enhance our Nation's ability to meet key and growing cyber requirements. The Department of Defense and the Air Force continue to depend on Hanscom's unmatched cyber expertise.

To ensure our Nation's crucial cyber defense, I say again very firmly today that the Air Force must preserve the senior three-star leadership in Massachusetts. Doesn't it make sense for our military's cyber leadership, expertise, and talent to be based in a location where some of the world's most leading research and technological development is actually taking place? Placing Hanscom's cyber team under a chain of command with a 3-star general in another State with a number of other Air Force responsibilities diminishes our Nation's ability to deliver critical cyber tools and resources and impacts our ability to respond to the ever-growing cyber threat.

Congress has spoken in a bipartisan and bicameral way. We have stated our position clearly. The Air Force should not move forward with any force structure changes at Hanscom until Congress has had an opportunity to review what our appropriate force structure mix should be, particularly as it relates to cybersecurity. We absolutely, positively must be ready to meet this next-generation threat--the one that keeps Secretary Panetta up at night. I will continue to fight to make sure we are prepared.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.


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