Defending IT: Words from the New Military Cyber Commander

Alexander: Evolution from Sea to Air to Space to Cyberspace
Defending IT: Words from the New Military Cyber Commander
The creation of a single military cyber command will provide better alignment within the Pentagon to conduct cyber operations in an era where split-second speed matters, said the general tapped to head the new command.

"Unlike the land, sea, air and space where the laws of physics do not change, cyberspace is a man-made creation that continually changes and evolves - operating effectively in this kind of environment requires that we leverage the expertise from a wide variety of disciplines," said Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, who Defense Secretary Robert Gates tapped to head the newly formed cyber command.

"We must close the seams between information assurance, network operation and defense, intelligence collection and offensive operations," Alexander, who will continue to serve as the director of the National Security Agency, said at a hearing last month before the House Armed Services Committee, foreshadowing the anticipated announcement of the new Pentagon cyber command.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Gates ordered the U.S. Strategic Command to establish a cyber command at Fort Meade, Md., that would become operational no later than October.

To gauge the new cyber commander's thinking, here are key portions of Alexander's testimony:

Deterrence Strategies

"Robust information assurance and securing vital networks must be our first priority. Our people play an important role in preventing unauthorized access to the critical systems in cyberspace. The cyber security training provided to our service men and women, and the civilian and contractor workforce is inadequate and must be improved.

"The defense of our networks must be accountable to the highest levels, and managed as such. It is imperative that all commanders enforce measures to ensure the readiness of networks managed by personnel under their purview. Our adversaries are taking advantage of this lack of assiduousness and discipline that ultimately costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost information and work hours.

"We must leverage the power of automated security protocols to effectively manage these threats we face every day. For example, deploying a host based security system will provide a level of security that potentially will operate at the speed of the network, and centrally update systems to a trusted baseline."

Serving America's Interests

"Maintaining freedom of action in cyberspace in the 21st Century is as inherent to U.S. interests as freedom of the seas was in the 19th Century, and access to air and space in the 20th Century. This is especially true since the United States is committed to leading international and domestic efforts to ensure the security of global information infrastructures upon which cyberspace depends; maintaining the capabilities to use cyberspace as a medium to deter, deny or defeat any adversary seeking to harm U.S. national and economic security; while ensuring actions are undertaken in a manner that protects our Constitutional liberties. The ability to operate freely within cyberspace poses a number of unique challenges

Evolving Warfighting Doctrine

"The rapid expansion and global dependence upon cyberspace required the Defense Department to evolve its warfighting doctrine to include cyberspace as a viable domain on par with the domains of the land, sea air and space. Cyberspace is unlike the other warfighting domains, it is a man-made technological phenomenon solely reliant upon human activity. The Department of Defense defines cyberspace as 'a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems and embedded processes and controllers.'"

Unique Cyber Characteristics

"Perhaps the characteristics of volume and speed are best known, as the truly unprecedented volumes of data and speed at which communications occur in cyberspace are demonstrated daily. More than the speed of the communications, the rate of change of cyberspace, and the applications that use it, is continuous, making this domain ever evolving. However, the convergence of communications devices being driven by cyberspace is fueling an integration that has far reaching consequences, both positive and negative, that must be appreciated if one is to understand this domain."

Click here to read Alexander's testimony.

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