Sen. Peters: ‘No. 1 threat to the homeland is cyber’

By: Alex Szwarc | Metro | Published December 10, 2021

 U.S. Sen. Gary Peters was the guest speaker at the Michigan Air Force Association’s Nov. 23 gathering. The topic was aerospace and defense, with Peters speaking on the latest from the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters was the guest speaker at the Michigan Air Force Association’s Nov. 23 gathering. The topic was aerospace and defense, with Peters speaking on the latest from the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Continuing missions at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, cyber security and drones were some issues discussed at a recent event.

On Nov. 23, the Michigan Air Force Association hosted its monthly gathering at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township. This time, it was Business Over Lunch. The guest speaker was U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan.

The topic was aerospace and defense, with Peters speaking on the latest from the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security committees.

“We have to do everything in our power to make sure that Selfridge continues to be a great base for the Air Force for generations to come,” he said. “We’re blessed to have Selfridge.”

Peters said that part of the reason the U.S. is a great country is because it has the best military in the world.

Discussing the National Defense Authorization Act, the senator said it’s a must-pass bill and he would like to see a few more amendments, like cyber security.

“There’s no question in my mind that the No. 1 threat to the homeland is cyber,” he said. “We need to up our game even more to deal with these constant threats that are coming at us.”

Retired Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum is the Michigan Air Force Association president.

“The Air Force Association was set up to advocate for our air and space forces,” he said. “As part of that, we’re supposed to engage, educate and talk with our congressional delegation.”

Slocum, the former 127th Wing commander at Selfridge, said Peters has always been a wonderful advocate for Selfridge and for defense.

Peters believes the first shot at any kind of conflict in the future will likely be cyber related.

He said, when it comes to cyberattacks, incident reporting is essential.

“We need to know when these attacks occur, and we know they’re not just critical infrastructure, but businesses in general,” Peters said. “The FBI needs to know what’s happening out there and have situational awareness.”

He noted that ransomware attacks tend to be toward smaller and medium-sized businesses.

“It’s an existential threat to small businesses, and it’s been estimated that roughly 60% of small businesses that get hit with a ransomware attack are out of business within 18 months,” Peters said.

He cited the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in the spring when the system suffered a ransomware cyberattack that impacted the pipeline.

From a homeland security perspective, he said he is worried about drone use.

“Drones are used in warfare, and we know what happened in Azerbaijan and the first war that was won as a result of drones,” Peters said. “If you have a pilotless drone, either autonomous or piloted, coming into a football stadium, it’s pretty frightening and I’m worried it’s only a matter of time.”

Peters expressed excitement toward autonomy, artificial intelligence and the future of warfare in Michigan.

“We’re ideally positioned for this,” he said. “On the civilian side, it’ll revolutionize mobility in ways that we can’t even imagine.”   

He said Michigan will be the center for artificial intelligence in the future, which will change everything in the world.

“This puts Michigan in the front and center of the beginning of a transformative time in our history in this country once again,” Peters said.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is set to speak next to the association, on Dec. 15.

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