The Role of the National Guard in Cyber Security Operations
Yesterday the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities held a hearing on the “Digital Warrior: Improving Military Capabilities for Cyber Operations." Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) and Ranking Member Jim Langevin (D-RI) questioned at length on the recruiting, training, development and retention of “Cyber Warriors” within each service. The witnesses included the following:
2. Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, commander, U.S. Army Cyber Command, Department of the Army
3. Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, deputy commandant, Combat Development and Integration and commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command
4. Maj. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, commander, 24th Air Force and commander, Air Force Network Operations, Department of the Air Force
U.S.Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) currently works under the Operational Directive set forth by its commander, Gen. Keith Alexander. USCYBERCOM is charged with the planning, coordination, integration and synchronization of activities in directing operations and defenses of specified DOD information networks as well as conduct full spectrum military cyberspace operations to ensure U.S. cyberspace is safe. Back in March, Gen. Alexander testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) saying:
- “In framing my comments on our progress at Cyber Command, I have to begin by noting a worrisome fact: cyberspace is becoming more dangerous.”
During yesterday's hearing, Chairman Thornberry asked the panel their thoughts on what the impact of sequestration would be in terms of further developing our cyber defenses. The services shared the belief that if sequestration were to go into effect, the readiness, personnel and training would be greatly impacted. The Air Force stated that the effects would be devastating. The current vision for cyber rests on future procurement and development which currently lacks a sustainment framework.
Role of the National Guard
Gen. Alexander, also in his March SASC hearing, stated the following when asked about the Guard’s role in cyber:
- “I do think this is an opportunity where the National Guard has some technical expertise as civilians working in this area, especially when you look in the high- tech areas. So this is something that we can leverage and we are working on that.”
When asked by Ranking Member Langevin what the future of the Guard would be in yesterday’s hearing, Maj. Gen. Vautrinot echoed much of Gen. Alexander’s earlier sentiments. The role of the Guard truly speaks to the Total Force. The Guard’s unique ability to transfer back and forth into the civilian workforce is a great platform to promote information sharing between Defense Department and industry. The skills and techniques that a Guardsman learns through Defense Department training can be carried over and transitioned into the civilian realm, thus being able to protect our private industry – an area right now lacks great protections. In fact, the number one most sought after element for good an effective cyber legislation, is information sharing between industry and the Defense Department.
- “In the Airman language, you need to gain a little altitude in order to be able to maneuver. The use of the Total Force gains us that altitude because these are citizen soldiers and they go back to their communities…they are using the same very high end capabilities…in their day to day mission, it is an operational mission, and it serving the Air Force and USCYBERCOM. But it also serves in bringing their level of training, the exact same training, and same equipage and capabilities, they can take that back and to community, to their corporate entities that they serve on a day to day basis and apply same knowledge in the same way that citizen airmen do when there is any crisis... it is a very technical application…As we expand that…then we have a team."
Feel free to watch the whole hearing here.
Tell us what you think - Is the Guard the perfect match for defending our cyber networks?