Richard Clarke is at it again. In a conference this week, he stridently appealed to the audience. He warned that the President aught not consider going to war any time in the near future. His reason? Any bellicose action we might take would be answered by our enemies (Iran, North Korea, others) with a cyber response, and we would be woefully unprepared against such action. Our infrastructure would be irreparably damaged, our electric grid would be destroyed, etc.

So, shame on us, we’d better lay low until all Dick’s recommendations to “fix” this mess are enacted. Come on, really?

At the same conference, GEN Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency and Commander of US Cyber Command, said that we have lots of vulnerabilities and need to get them fixed.

These are deceptively similar messages, given in very different manners.

Of course we need to greatly improve our cyber defenses. We need to fix the technical gaps, the inequalities between organizational capabilities. We need to enforce the policies and procedures we already have on the books, which we now take far too lightly. We need to remedy the completely inadequate education and awareness levels of our citizens and (frankly speaking) our leaders when it comes to cyber issues and threats. We are in a dynamic and difficult race with the bad guys of all stripes. They want our data, our Intellectual Property, our secrets, our competitive advantages, and we need to protect these critical national assets.

That said, we are a long way from the paralyzing fear Clarke seems to be peddling.

Dick Clarke is a competent and farsighted man who has served this Nation long and well. Why does he seem to relish wallowing in hyperbole?

We are NOT boxed in by our cyber insecurities to the point of having no options. Should we be conscious of the dangers that now include a growing set of cyber threats? Yes. Should we get off our collective duffs and fix (or better said work toward fixing) these weak areas? Yes. Do we need to get the policy community to break the various impasses that have developed, and figure out what the United States can and should do in the cyber realm? Emphatically, YES!

But Dick, please stay in the Kingdom of Reality. You do the Nation and yourself a disservice when you play Cassandra.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More