DC Summit Convenes Military ‘Cyber Warriors’

WASHINGTON – Setting the US Armed Forces on a straighter course for comprehensive, successful cybersecurity operations is as easy as turning an old battleship around 180 degrees on the high seas, in combat. It’s a Herculean effort that seems to have no limit of evolving challenges — human or technical, policy or practice.
But there is an alphabet soup of military components and an entire contracting industry devoted to making it happen.
Such was the message on the first day of the Cyber Security for National Defense summit sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement in Washington DC Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s been an exciting year,” declared Vice Admiral Carl Mauney, Deputy Commander of US Strategic Command, which among other responsibilities is to “ensure freedom of action in space and cyber space.” It is also in the process of overseeing the development of the new Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) — a unified subcommand with representatives from each of the Armed Forces dedicated especially to cyber warfare and defense.
“We’re positive about the direction this is headed,” he told his audience of mostly industry vendors, program managers and military and civilian technical specialists.
In a brief interview with HSToday.us, Adm. Mauney said STRATCOM was awaiting the promotion of Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander to four-star rank so he can take over as CYBERCOM’s first commander. Officials also expect an infusion of resources in the next two budget cycles and a small force of between 200-300 to start. The new command will integrate the missions of STRATCOM’s Joint Task Force Global Network Operations (JTF GNO) and Joint Functional Component Command Network Warfare (JFCC NW), and be based in the interim at Fort Meade in Maryland.
 The Army’s “Guardians at the Gate”
Brigadier Gen. Steven Smith told the audience Tuesday that he believed that 85 percent of the Army’s forces would be concentrated on CONUS (the Continental United States) within three to five years. Forces will be expected to “plan upon route, attack upon entry,” so efficiency, and secure network capabilities will be more than essential. “We’re not Net centric,” Smith pointed out. “We’re Net dependent.”
At home, there are more than 866,000 users on nearly 450 different Army network connections through 19 different command agencies and “it’s too decentralized,” Smith said. Soldiers have several different emails and file storage for every stage of service — one for their base, another for training, another for mobilization, and another for deployment. There are sometimes 12 different IT departments on a single Army installation and no one seems to talk to one another.
Smith said there are big things in the works to change all of this. Centralized “Network Service Centers” are being developed for each of the Unified Combatant Commands, including AFRICOM, USEUCOM, CENTCOM and USPACOM, as part of a Global Network Enterprise Strategy. He points out that the greatest vulnerabilities today include cyber espionage, identity theft, supply chain infiltration, insider attacks, and Web site attacks. There is also a growing threat from users themselves — a lack of knowledge and personal judgment went it comes to using social networking sites and file sharing, for example.
Training new “cyber warriors” and keeping them working on the networks as the technology and policy evolves is essential. Giving vendors the tools to the latest and most advanced products to the Army without bogging them down in bureaucratic red tape is also a goal. “I believe the fix is in – we’re moving in the right direction,” Smith said optimistically.” It’s going to be a most interesting time to be in the cyber business in the US military.”
But Mark Young, Special Counsel for Defense Intelligence with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, warned there is a ways to go, particularly on the policy side. First, there is a lack of a “national strategy” to design and develop integrated cybersecurity capabilities government-wide, not just for the DoD, he said. “Technically, I think we’ve moved the ball down the field,” he said. “It’s the policy part that concerns me.”
Other perspectives
From a contractor’s point of view — the people hired by the military to execute many of the practices and processes that make cybersecurity a reality — there is a healthy amount of skepticism over whether the military will finally get things right. This is borne out of years of “planning, ” and many fits and starts within myriad cybersecurity initiatives government-wide.
One program manager for a major defense contractor who did not want to use his name said there have been major strides in creating standards and protocols in systems security, but he senses there is still a lot of “groping” at the top in terms of broader solutions, particularly with all the talk about fully integrating the DoD’s global command networks and training up "cyber warriors" for the task of maintaining and protecting the Goliath-like "global network enterprise strategy" that the Army envisions.
"Some policymakers seem to want to apply traditional solutions to a non-traditional threat. The zeal for enterprise solutions in an effort to gain insight and efficiencies seems to come at the risk of developing a sort of ‘Cyber Maginot Line,’” he said. “There is some level of security in diversity. How much interdependence is too much?
“We’re just trying to get clarity on the objectives,” he continued. “That’s what I am looking for here.”
Kelley Vlahos is a Washington DC correspondent and regular contributor to HSToday.us.

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