Ohio Gov. John Kasich said during Thursday’s GOP presidential debate that he’d “beef up” the U.S. Cyber Command as president and make sure the military is able to launch offensive attacks against critical infrastructure abroad.
Mr. Kasich was responding to a question about the Chinese government when he told moderator Jake Tapper that the next commander in chief must ensure the U.S. is able to fire back against state-sponsored hackers.
“[W]hen it comes to the issue of cyberattacks, we’re going to have to beef up the cyber command,” he said. “And they need to understand that if you attack us, we will defend ourselves, everything, including our grid. But if you do it, we have the capability to take out your systems. The president has not given the Cyber Command that authority. I will.”
“They have to stop hacking everything we have in this country, or we’ll take out their systems,” Mr. Kasich said later during the debate.
The U.S. government has largely blamed China for a wave of recent data breaches affecting U.S. corporate and government entities, including the high-profile Office of Personnel Management intrusion that allowed hackers to compromise sensitive data pertaining to more than 20 million current and former federal employees and contractors.
President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed last September to stop hacking intellectual property and trade secrets from the computer systems of foreign competitors amid reports that Washington was considering new sanctions to impose against Beijing.
“People have to know that if you are going to mess with us, that not only are we in a position to defend ourselves, but also to come back at them,” Mr. Kasich said after the two presidents announced they had reached a “common understanding” with respect to offensive cyber campaigns.
In December, Mr. Kasich said the U.S. government is “losing on the cyber battlefield” and called it “a critical battle space that we must dominate to keep America safe.”