Whether by land, sea or air, Defense Department leaders have long crafted rules of engagement to determine how, where and when forces can attack the enemy. They expect soon to complete the same for their newest domain: cyberspace, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs said today.
“We are working closely with the Joint Staff on the implementation of a transitional command-and-control model for cyberspace operations” while reviewing existing rules of engagement, Madelyn R. Creedon told the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.
Teresa M. Takai, DOD’s chief information officer, and Army Gen. Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, joined Creedon at the hearing.
“This interim framework,” Creedon told the panel, “will standardize existing organizational structures and command relationships across the department for the application of the full spectrum of cyberspace capabilities.”
Describing DOD’s strategies for operating in cyberspace, Creedon said the department maintains more than 15,000 network enclaves and 7 million computing devices in installations around the globe.
“DOD continues to develop effective strategies for ensuring the United States is prepared for all cyber contingencies along the entire spectrum,” she added, “from peace to crisis to war.”
In times of fiscal constraint, Creedon said, DOD also is taking advantage of efficiencies provided by information technology advances.
“The department has been working around the clock, often in close cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies,” she said, to protect the nation from cyber threats that include the theft of intellectual property, as well as damage to the defense industrial base, the economy and national security.
The department hit a “significant milestone” last July with the release of its first strategy for operating in cyberspace, Creedon said. The document builds on President Barack Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace and the DOD Quadrennial Defense Review, and guides the department’s military, business and intelligence activities in cyberspace in support of national interests, she said.
The DOD works closely with colleagues in the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Treasury, Commerce and other agencies, she added, and pursues bilateral and multilateral engagements to enhance security and develop norms of behavior in cyberspace.
Takai told the panel that DOD’s $37 billion information technology budget request for fiscal year 2013 includes a range of IT investments, including $3.4 billion for cyber security efforts to protect information, information systems and networks against known cyber vulnerabilities.
It also includes $182 million for Cyber Command for cyber network defense, cryptographic systems, communications security, network resiliency, workforce development, and development of cyber security standards and technologies department-wide.
Among efforts to improve effectiveness and efficiency, Takai explained, “is consolidation of the department’s IT infrastructure, networks, computing services, data centers, application and data services, while simultaneously improving the ability to defend that infrastructure against growing cyber threats.”
Her office is leading the implementation of the initiatives, the chief information officer added, “but it is important that we work closely with the services, Joint Staff and U.S. Cyber Command to more aggressively modernize our overall information systems.”
A pillar of that modernization is a move to a single, joint network architecture, Takai said, allowing DOD and Cyber Command better visibility into network activity and better defense against cyber attacks.
Individually, she said, the services and agencies have taken action to better position the information enterprise and security posture.
The department has made significant progress in several areas, Takai said. One effort involved deploying a modular system called a host-based security system that enhances situational awareness of the network and improves the ability to detect, diagnose and react to cyber intrusions.
“We’ve also taken the lead in assessing the risk of the global supply chain to our critical information and communications technology,” Takai added, and has instituted a successful defense industrial base cyber security and information assurance program.
Alexander said cyber defense requires contributions not only from DOD, but from Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Defense Information Systems Agency — “all key partners in helping us do our cyber mission.”
Cyber space is becoming more dangerous, he added.
“The intelligence community’s worldwide threat brief to Congress in January raised cyber threats to just behind terrorism and [nuclear] proliferation in its list of the biggest challenges facing the nation.”
The task of assuring cyberspace access, the general said, “has drawn the attention of our nation’s most senior leaders over the last year and their decisions have helped to clarify what we can and must do about developments that greatly concern us.”
Cyber Command is specifically charged with directing the security, operation and defense of DOD’s information systems, he added, “but our work and actions are affected by threats well outside DOD networks … threats the nation cannot afford to ignore.”
Dangers are not something new in cyberspace.
“Nation-state actors in cyberspace are riding a tide of criminality,” the general said. “Several nations have turned their resources and power against us and foreign businesses and enterprises, even those that manage critical infrastructure in this country, and others.”
For the panel, Alexander described five key areas Cyber Command is working on:
- Building the enterprise and training the force;
- Developing a defensible architecture;
- Getting authorities needed to operate in cyberspace;
- Setting the teamwork properly across U.S. government agencies; and
- Creating a concept of operations for operating in cyberspace.
“I think we’re making progress,” Alexander said, “but … the risks that face our country are growing faster than our progress and we have to work hard on that.”