Nakasone: No. 1 objective is 'safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections'

By Justin Doubleday / July 20, 2020 at 12:10 PM

The head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command says his top priority is defending the 2020 U.S. elections from foreign interference.

"Our No. 1 objective at the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command is safe, secure and legitimate 2020 elections," Gen. Paul Nakasone said during an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army today.

Nakasone said his team is building off the success of the 2018 mid-term elections, when NSA and CYBERCOM established the "Russia Small Group" to coordinate actions to disrupt foreign influence campaigns and election interference.

He said the command's strategy involves generating "insights" about U.S. adversaries.

"Much like 2018, we're going to know our adversaries better than they know themselves," Nakasone said.

He also lauded the partnerships NSA and CYBERCOM forged across the government, including with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency. Ahead of 2020, Nakasone said his team is expanding its partnerships to academia, where universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Stanford are studying issues like the role of social media in influence operations.

Lastly, Nakasone said NSA and CYBERCOM will "act."

"We're going to act when we see adversaries attempting to interfere in our elections," he said.

The four-star also lauded the Defense Department's shift to teleworking during the COVID-19 crisis. As of July 15, 1.2 million users were using DOD's teleworking capability, the "Commercial Virtual Remote" Environment, according to Nakasone.

"We also have to realize we are working in the midst of a pandemic, we're working with a population that is very, very comfortable operating in this type of space," he said. "The fact that every single day, I can touch any part of a worldwide global enterprise and be able to do it virtually, that's tremendously powerful."