At a Council on Foreign Relations conference yesterday, I asked the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, what the right ratio should be. Here's the exchange:
Q: Charlie Stevenson, SAIS. Chairman McCaul said that we’re better at cyber offense than defense. There have been reports that the federal government spends three or four times as much on cyber offense as defense. What’s the right ratio?I understand his reluctance to cut back on offensive cyber programs, but I worry that the imbalance also reflects a mindset that offense can deter if we just have enough. That was the military mindset regarding nuclear weapons and it could weaken our cyber defenses if we carry this too far.
MCCAUL: Well, you know, that’s a—our offensive capability is vitally important to the defense of the nation. We have used it in the past and it’s very effective. It’s a very dangerous world. Russia’s in Syria now, and it’s very complicated. So we need those tools. I wouldn’t say I’d take away from that, but I think we need to—it’s not a ratio, but we need to bring up our defensive capability to our offensive capability. And right now, it’s not there.