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TikTok and Talent Top Committee Discussions

The use of data from a widely used social media app could put the country at risk.




During a Cyber, Information Technologies and Innovation subcommittee hearing on Thursday, legislators and U.S. Department of Defense witnesses identified talent acquisition and retention for cyber warfare among the greatest challenges in that domain.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, USA, commander, U.S. Cyber Command, and John Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, addressed this and other priorities. 

“I want to make sure that some of the most talented folks aren't just going to do IPOs [initial public offerings] and become multimillionaires but [are] also serving the country,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) in his opening remarks. 

In the short term, Gen. Nakasone stressed that increased pay grades for top technology talent brought mid-career engineering skills. In the long term, recruitment is taking the Department of Defense to schools. 

“U.S. Cyber Command, a little over a year ago, started the academic network to reach out to a series of 100+ universities within the United States to talk about what we do and encourage people to consider government service,” Gen. Nakasone said. 














U.S. House Rep. Ro Khanna
I want to make sure that some of the most talented folks aren't just going to do IPOs and become multimillionaires but [are] also serving the country.
Ro Khanna
U.S. House Representative


Another point in the agenda touched on social media companies with links to adversarial governments. 

The social media platform TikTok has 150 million users in the United States, according to a company release. The corporation that runs this platform, ByteDance, is a Chinese entity that operates under the regulations of that country, including requirements to turn over any information requested. The company has repeatedly told journalists there are no links with the Beijing government. 

"When we think about TikTok as a potential threat vector, the things that come to mind are: one, the scale, a tremendous number of people in the United States use TikTok, and the control that China may have to be able to direct information through it,” Plumb told legislators. 

Plumb is concerned about foreign influence on the American public, especially voters. 

“So, here's a misinformation platform, and then of course, the data that it can collect,” Plumb added. 









Discussions also addressed partnerships between Cyber Command and other U.S. agencies, the private sector and foreign allies. 

While China, Russia and Iran were assessed as having improved their capabilities, the Department of Defense sought to increase its competitive advantages in talent, not only hiring from the local pool but also overseas resources. 

“Our allies and partners serve as a strategic advantage and a force multiplier that our adversaries can never hope to match,” Plumb said. 

Successfully joining partners with local government agencies has produced high-impact results and brought certainty to the election process. 

“Last fall, a combined U.S. Cyber Command-National Security Agency election security group countered malicious cyber actors and oversaw measures to enable the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, among other domestic partners, to defend the recent midterm elections; the 2022 election cycle proceeded from primaries to certifications without significant impacts, due in part to our effort,” Gen. Nakasone said. 

Both witnesses agreed with lawmakers that the private sector gave the Department of Defense the greatest opportunity to develop new capabilities and implement them with adequate speed. 


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