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DOD, DHS Join Forces to Promote Cybersecurity

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today that their departments will work together to better protect against threats to military and civilian computer networks and systems.

The departments’ new memorandum of agreement on cybersecurity was created, the senior officials said, to coordinate and improve efforts to secure the nation’s critical cyber-based infrastructure.

“With this memorandum of agreement, effective immediately, we are building a new framework between our departments to enhance operational coordination and joint program planning, Gates and Napolitano said in a joint statement. “It formalizes processes in which we work together to protect our nation’s cyber networks and critical infrastructure, and increases the clarity and focus of our respective roles and responsibilities.”

Under the agreement, DOD cyber analysts will work with their counterparts at DHS to formally support the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, called NCCIC. The agreement also provides a full-time senior DHS leader to DOD’s National Security Agency, along with a support team comprised of DHS privacy, civil liberties and legal personnel.

“This structure is designed to put the full weight of our combined capabilities and expertise behind every action taken to protect our vital cyber networks, without altering the authorities or oversight of our separate but complementary missions,” Gates and Napolitano said in their joint statement.

“We will improve economy and efficiency by better leveraging vital technologies and personnel to serve both Departments’ missions in full adherence to U.S. laws and regulation,” they added. “This memorandum of agreement furthers our strong commitment to protecting civil liberties and privacy.

According to a senior DHS official, the agreement is the “next logical step” in cybersecurity efforts and has several important effects.

“We expect it to enhance joint planning and increase visibility between DOD’s and DHS’s operational processes and increase each agency’s effectiveness,” the senior DHS official said today in a telephone briefing for reporters. “For example, we would hope that this would drive more rapid collaboration under the National Cyber Incident Response Plan,” a federal plan to define roles and responsibilities of agencies and industry in responding to potential cyber attacks.

In the same briefing, a senior DOD official said that one of DOD’s key missions is to provide defense support to civilian authorities during attacks on the homeland.

“This applies to responding to hurricanes or other natural disasters or to [weapons of mass destruction] and it applies to cybersecurity as well,” the senior DOD official said. “So from our perspective supporting DHS on cybersecurity is part of DOD’s mission and this [agreement] is intended to help DOD and [the National Security Agency] in particular to be able to do that more effectively.”

By executive order, NSA acts as the national manager for National Security Systems and in that capacity it reports to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of National Intelligence.

“We’re not talking about new missions or new authorities; we’re looking to help our departments be able to do their jobs better,” the senior DOD official said.

“The U.S. just happens to have a tremendous amount of expertise at NSA,” he added. “Our perspective is that it will be a lot faster and more cost effective to make sure NSA is supporting DHS as effectively as possible than to expect DHS to try to build all the capabilities NSA has. As a country we don’t have the time or the money to try to buy all of the capabilities twice.”

DOD needs DHS to succeed in the cybersecurity mission, the senior DOD official said.

“We need it to help us be able to do our own assigned missions,” he said, “from transporting troops and material to wars overseas to supporting defense of the homeland. We rely as a department not just on the dot mil -- our own networks -- but on a secure dot gov and dot com to work with our partners.”

The DOD official added, “It may seem ironic in today’s connected world, and especially for cybersecurity, that we’re suggesting it’s critical to have people work together on a daily basis, face-to-face. But that’s the reality of how people work and from a DOD perspective we understand that this arrangement will help DHS compete more effectively for support from NSA.”

“We look forward to building on this vitally important step toward greater collaboration,” Gates and Napolitano said in their joint statement, “as we continue to work together on new and better ways to protect our economy and critical networks against evolving threats by those who seek to harm the United States.”


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Related Sites:
Department of Homeland Security
National Security Agency
Special Report: CyberSecurity

Related Articles:
Obama Proclaims Cybersecurity Awareness Month


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