By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2017 — Defense of America’s interests in cyberspace took center stage on Capitol Hill today as the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony about protecting the nation from cyberattacks.
Kenneth P. Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, stressed that the department is just one part of the whole-of-government approach to cyberdefense.
The main mission for DoD is ensuring its own cyberdefense and ensuring communications among its worldwide assets, Rapuano said in prepared testimony. But if called upon, he added, the department would be part of any interagency response to a significant cyberattack.
Rapuano said cyberdefense is a timely topic, as “the threats and level of malicious activity we face in cyberspace are real and growing. This diverse and persistent set of threats comes from state and non-state actors who probe and scan U.S. networks for vulnerabilities. The states we watch most closely in cyberspace include China, Iran, North Korea and especially Russia.”
DoD cyber forces look to defend DoD networks, systems, and information to ensure that DoD can accomplish its core missions, Rapuano said. The department also looks to provide integrated cyber capabilities in support of operational and contingency plans.
Rapuano said the Cyber Mission Force is DoD’s principal capability to carry out DoD’s cyber mission. The force, under U.S. Cyber Command, has more than 6,000 service members and civilians and achieved initial operational capacity just over a year ago. It is projected to reach full operational capacity by the end of this new fiscal year.
“In terms of readiness, as well as operational activities in support of the campaign to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, DoD is already seeing the results of those investments,” he said.
Working With Other Agencies
The force works with other entities in government, Rapuano said. “The Cyber National Mission Force through its integrated operations plays a key role,” he said. “This force combines the capabilities of National Mission Teams that pursue adversaries into red space; National Support Teams that provide additional capacity in analysis, linguists, reporting, capability development and targeting; and national Cyber Protection Teams that hunt adversaries in friendly terrain.”
This integration allows cyber defense experts to learn the tactics, techniques, and procedures of adversaries and to detect malicious cyber activity, Rapuano said. “These teams develop and, if directed, undertake operations to deter, delay, disrupt, and defeat an imminent or ongoing cyberattack or malicious cyber activity,” he said. “The combined efforts of these teams give the CMF the capacity to operate on a global scale against the broad spectrum of adversaries and growing threats.”
DoD works with allies and partners worldwide to identify threats and mitigate attacks, the official said. “In addition to these external partnerships, the department is leveraging its own mission assurance risk-management processes to identify, prioritize and mitigate the most impactful vulnerabilities to the critical infrastructure that is fundamental to DoD’s ability to project power and protect the U.S. homeland, our people, and our allies and partners,” Rapuano said.
Rapuano said his highest priority is to address the challenges that still face the department in cyberspace and its role in the broader interagency response effort.
“Specifically, I am working to reinvigorate the role of the Principal Cyber Advisor; to clarify the department’s internal lines of accountability and authority in cyber; and to integrate and communicate more effectively DoD cyberspace strategy, plans, and train and equip functions in cyber,” he said. “It is also time to revise our cyber strategy, update policy on such key cyber issued as deterrence and translate this and other guidance into capabilities, forces, and operations that will maintain our superiority in this domain.”