Senate shores up DOD security

Appropriations bill funds security specialists, biometrics

Looking to strengthen the security of Defense Department systems, last month the Senate urged the Pentagon to study how it might use the Army National Guard to make up for the shortage of qualified computer programmers and information security specialists throughout the military. The Senate also took steps to kick-start the use of biometrics technology.

In its report on the fiscal 2001 Defense Appropriations bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee urged DOD "to examine the role of the reserves in the carrying out [of] information operations, information assurance and information systems security missions." The bill, which was approved by the committee May 18, must still pass the House and the Senate and work its way through a joint House/Senate conference.

"The reserve component, especially the National Guard, is well positioned" to carry out the mission of securing the nation's critical computer systems, the Senate report stated.

The language in the Senate report comes almost one year after a major DOD study recommended an unprecedented expansion in the role the reserves play in national defense, including the formation of a cyberdefense unit to protect the nation's critical infrastructure [FCW, July 26, 1999].

That study, known as the "Reserve Component Employment Study 2005," concluded that the reserves are "particularly well-suited to homeland defense missions" and called for the formation of a "joint [reserve component] virtual information operations organization."

Jack Brock Jr., director of Governmentwide and Defense Information Systems Issues at the General Accounting Office, recently testified before a Senate subcommittee that DOD came close to requiring the help of the reserves during the recent "love bug" outbreak.

"Military personnel from across the department were pulled from their primary responsibilities to assist," said Brock. One DOD official noted that if such an attack were to occur over a substantial amount of time, reservists would have to be called for additional support.

The committee approved more than $3 billion in overall operations and maintenance funding for the Army National Guard, including $65.7 million for expansion of the Guard's Distributed Learning project and electronic courseware development to bolster the Guard's homeland defense mission aimed at federal, state and local responses to terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction.

The committee also infused $14 million into DOD's biometrics security operations and maintenance accounts, including $8 million for the Army and $3 million each for the Navy and the Air Force. Biometrics rely on fingerprints, iris scans or other physical traits to identify an individual, which are viewed as more secure than passwords or security tokens. (see FCW's Biometrics briefings and reviews.)

The biometrics funding is viewed by some as a critical step in kick-starting the Army's role as executive agent for biometrics research and development. "The [Defense] Department is encouraged to include funding for [biometrics R&D] in future-year budget requests," the committee report stat

Likewise, the committee boosted the Army's Information System Security Program (ISSP) procurement budget to $71.3 million, a $17 million increase over the Pentagon's request. The Senate included $12 million for the Army to procure biometrics equipment and $5 million for secure terminal equipment.

The Army recently created a bio- metrics security office under the tutelage of Phillip Loranger, formerly the chief of the Command and Control Protect Division within the Army's Information Assurance Office. The service has taken the lead in researching and developing biometric security solutions that Loranger said will fill one of the most common network security gaps: personal passwords [FCW, April 3, 2000].

The Navy also received $3 million more than what was requested for ISSP as well as $3 million for secure terminal equipment. The Senate granted the Air Force $4 million for secure terminals.

Carrying forth with its focus on lessons learned from the air war in Kosovo, the Senate also expressed concern that some fighter aircraft may not be equipped with the proper electronic warfare systems.

To ensure that steps are taken to enhance DOD's Electronic Warfare Modernization Plan, the committee directed the Pentagon to produce a detailed analysis of the electronic warfare threat facing pilots, the systems currently in place to protect them and the department's funding plan for future budgets.

NEXT STORY: Agarwal takes post at NIC

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