A bill introduced Thursday by top lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee requires the Pentagon to notify Congress about cyber operations it is waging outside war zones and the new cyber weapons it is employing.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would have two days to tell armed services committees in the House and Senate about the “sensitive” military cyber operations and about weapons reviewed or cleared for use under international law, according to the bill’s text.
It includes language assuring the classified information would be handled appropriately.
The legislation comes as cyberattacks become a central concern of national security and the U.S. faces off against increasingly numerous and advanced operations by adversaries such as China, North Korea and Russia, which used hacked documents to influence last year’s presidential election as well as France’s recent election.
“This proposal to enhance congressional oversight of sensitive military cyber operations and cyber weapons will help achieve that balance by promoting greater transparency and accountability for some of the most classified elements of our national defense,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a released statement.
The intent of lawmakers is to roll the legislation into the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act. It is also sponsored by the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, as well as the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.
Smith said the legislation creates a “solid framework for congressional oversight of DoD cyber operations outside of areas of active hostilities.”
It requires Mattis to notify lawmakers of any cyber operations carried out with foreign partners and those “intended to cause effects outside a geographic location where United States armed forces are involved in hostilities.”
The legislation provides an exemption for “covert action” that is intended to influence politics, economics or militaries abroad and considered separate from traditional military operations.