The U.S. Department of Defense plans to add up to 4,900 cybersecurity personnel over the next five years in a bid to bolster both defensive capabilities to thwart the barrage of ongoing attacks and take the helm at the controls of new cyberweapons.
The Pentagon personnel will consist of both military and civilian security pros and help boost critical infrastructure protection and defend military networks. The request is being made by the head of the Defense Department's Cyber Command, according to The Washington Post, which reported that plans for the new personnel have not yet been finalized.
Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper reported Sunday that both government networks and those at critical infrastructure facilities such as oil and chemical refineries and power generation plants, have been under a constant barrage of attacks. Initial plans call for three divisions under the Cyber Command, including staff to protect computer systems connected to the power grid, combat forces to carry out attacks abroad and teams to protect DoD networks.
The U.S. Cyber Command is led by Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency. The DoD and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have reportedly worked out an agreement to work together to coordinate cybersecurity defenses. DHS will oversee stateside capabilities and can access Pentagon systems in the event of a serious attack. A presidential order would give the military authority in a national crisis. Officials insist that the military would not be inside private networks.
The U.S. officially opened its National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) last month. Based in Arlington, Va., the center will consist of the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications. The NCCIC will also integrate the National Cybersecurity Center, which is designated to oversee operations over government networks.
U.S. officials have been warning of the possibility of a dangerous, potentially catastrophic cybersecurity attack designed to cripple the nation's infrastructure or even cause destruction. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano warned last week that an incident on the scale of 9/11 was imminent. Officials have been pushing Congress to pass tougher cybersecurity legislation designed to foster threat information sharing.
An executive order reportedly signed by President Obama addresses government cybersecurity response, specifying that government agencies must first engage law enforcement and use traditional network defenses before responding with military personnel.
PUBLISHED JAN. 28, 2013