New Legislation in Senate to Create "Cyber Guards"

This afternoon, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., David Vitter, R-La., Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced bipartisan legislation to expand cyber security capability in the National Guard. It focuses on recruiting, training and maintaining cyber experts while protecting national and economic U.S. security.

Known as the Cyber Warrior Act of 2013, the bill would is an important step in officially recognizing the important role the National Guard should play in the nation's cyberdefense. Many Guardsmen already hold information technology security positions in the private sector, and it only makes sense to leverage those skills to help bolster the nations cybersecurity efforts. The act would create response teams of "cyber Guards" that would augment civilian authorities responding to cyber threats, much like Civil Support Teams help first responders in disaster response. There is a real need for a bigger Defense Department Cyber Presence. A joint press release from the co-sponsors indicates that 

... the Pentagon alone is short by about 10,000 cyber experts with only 2,000 currently in place. There is also a shortfall of both capability and capacity at the federal, state, and local levels to prepare, respond, and mitigate the effects of cyber events.  In today’s economic environment, many of the top computer network operations and information technology (CNO/IT) specialists are choosing to work in the private sector, attracted by financial incentives, entrepreneurship trainings and flexibility.

To remain competitive, the Department of Defense acknowledges that it must develop new and innovative ways and receive the tools needed to recruit and retain cyber warriors. The Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace states that “the demand for new cyber personnel is high, commensurate with the severity of cyber threats. DoD must make itself competitive if it is to attract technically skilled personnel to join government service for the long-term. Paradigm-shifting approaches such as the development of Reserve and National Guard cyber capabilities can build greater capacity, expertise, and flexibility across DoD, federal, state, and private sector activities.”

The Cyber Warrior Act of 2013 would place Cyber Guards in each state and territory, which could provide a scalable response. This National Guard unit can be activated by the Governor or Secretary of Defense depending on the response needed. These cyber teams would combine Active Guard and Traditional Guard Members, leveraging Members’ private sector IT experience. The use of the Guard would also support the goal of retaining the cyber trained military personnel who would otherwise leave the service.

Among other things, the bill also will require: 

  • A description and assessment of various mechanisms to recruit and retain members of the regular and reserve components of the Armed Forces;
  • An assessment of the use of virtual and/or short term deployments in case of cyber incident responses; and
  • A description of the training requirements and physical demands in the cyber specialties.

A longer version of the press release is available at Leahy's Senate website. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This entry was edited to include links to each senator's website and a link to the press release about the Cyber Warrior Act. ARW 3-25-13

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