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​Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of Homeland Security on Jan. 10, 2017. Screenshot photo.

​Collaboration across agencies and engagement with the commercial sector are two keys to a robust national cyber defense, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly said Tuesday at his Senate confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The cyber threat is escalated, he said, because “now we know that we have some pretty darn close-to-peer competitors.” He also acknowledged “with high confidence” the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a cyber campaign to influence the outcome of the November presidential election. “We very easily could suffer a catastrophic event,” Kelly said, and DHS needs to be better prepared to counter such a possibility. Kelly said he plans to learn from Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s willingness to partner with industry in Silicon Valley and elsewhere to develop innovative solutions. “Working together makes a lot of sense,” Kelly said. “Ash Carter was onto something in a big way.” He also said the various government entities that work on cyber—DHS, the military, and intelligence services—need to get rid of their “stovepipe mentality.” The US government already has “unbelievably talented people across the agencies,” he said, “but there’s not enough interaction.”