DoD fixing its patchwork quilt of cybersecurity

New Cyber Command will better integrate existing and new computer network defense capabilities. DoD right now is spread too thin to protect its 15,000 networks ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The true role of the new U.S. Cyber Command is becoming clearer — assimilation of all the different ways the Defense Department protects and secures its more than 15,000 networks.

James Miller, the principal deputy under secretary of Defense for Policy, says the existing defense is spread too thin both from a geographical and an institutional perspective.

“It’s a little bit of a patchwork quilt today,” Miller says during a speech Wednesday sponsored by Ogilvy Public Relations in Washington. “CyberCom is intended to address that challenge.”

The new sub unified command, which comes under the U.S. Strategic Command, will bring together as many as six military and intelligence organizations that work on cybersecurity and will be co-located with the National Security Agency. Miller says it also will work closely with the service’s cyber organizations, such as the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, the Navy’s 10th Fleet Command and the 24th Air Force.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander will head the Cyber Command as well as continue to lead NSA. The Senate confirmed Alexander as the head of the command and awarded him his fourth star May 7.

“The linkages between intelligence, offense and defense are particularly important for cyber,” Miller says. “In general, the capability to repel attackers is closely tied to our ability to identify them and anticipate intrusions.”

The command will focus on three broad mission areas:

  • Lead the defense of the .mil networks.
  • Support ongoing military and counter terrorism missions, and support planning for future operations, including conducting offensive operations and support other commanders in that effort.
  • Stand by to help support civilian and industry partners.

Miller adds the overall goal of all the command’s missions areas is to deter attacks when possible; detect and defeat attacks when they can’t be deterred; and continue to conduct military operations and help government and society continue to operate in a cyber world.

“As we think about the broader strategy for cyberspace and cybersecurity in particularly, the first step, as is the case in many areas, is to recognize we have a problem and in this case, recognize we have a new domain of operations,” he says. “In some ways it’s similar to land, sea, air and space, but a key difference is it’s manmade and rests largely on a privately-owned infrastructure.”

To guide the command and DoD at large, Miller says the Pentagon is developing a cyber framework. It is an off shoot from the White House’s 60-day cyberspace policy review completed last year.

The framework will address operational planning and create a clear chain of command with legal lines of authority from the President to the Secretary of Defense to StratCom and CyberCom to the units that would execute operations across the agency, Miller says.

“We need to resource our services from stages of concept development to final operating capability,” he says. “We know that cyberdefense will also take some new capabilities for training. We are developing analogs for cybersecurity. One of the most interesting is DARPA’s work in building a new national cyber range, in effect a model of the Internet. We are looking to run real world simulations to test our defenses and test new capabilities.”

The strategy also will address the concept of shared warnings of cyber threats with civilian agencies, industry and international partners.

And the document will try to better define the guidelines for cyber operations in times of peace, crisis and war.

“As you can imagine, the gray area that’s not totally peace time and it’s not open conflict that gray area of crisis and potentially emerging conflict is most challenging,” he says. “It includes thinking in the department and working with our interagency partners about norms of conduct, and thinking about how to accelerate innovation, including rapid acquisition.”

Miller adds that the framework also will address a broad set of legal and policy issues.

“How does the law of armed conflict apply? It’s clear that it does,” he says. “As we go into various scenarios, and we have been conducting a good bit of analysis and wargaming recently-tabletop games involving not just the department, but our interagency and international partners as well. What is an act of aggression? What is an act of war? How should DoD work with the Homeland Security Department, the intelligence community and industry?”

Miller says the supply chain and defense industrial base also are among DoD’s cybersecurity concerns that need to be addressed.

“No system is 100 percent safe and that for unclassified systems, we have to presume there is a possibility of breach and have to manage those risks,” he says. “DoD has done more than just about any other actor to defend our networks. We still see significant gaps and significant vulnerabilities and we are working hard on the problems.”

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