NSC to lead national security initiative

SEATTLE—The Clinton administration is moving forward with a new plan to have a senior member of the National Security Council coordinate measures to protect the nation's critical computer systems, according to prepared remarks by Defense Secretary William Cohen during his visit to Microsoft Corp. here.

Although the Defense Department plans to spend $3.6 billion on computer security over the next four years, DOD's growing reliance on information systems is a two-edged sword that increases DOD's vulnerability while at the same time providing great benefits, Cohen said.

The same technologies that give DOD an overwhelming advantage on the battlefield "also make [the United States] increasingly vulnerable," Cohen said. "Our work is part of a larger government effort to keep our information-based economy safe from disruption."

The Pentagon has been the target of some very high-profile hacker attacks over the past two years, particularly during the massive buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf a year ago. In fact, during the December 1998 bombing of Iraq, security officials at the U.S. Transportation Command reported several incidents of individuals probing DOD's Global Transportation Network—incidents that may have been of Middle Eastern origin.

Underscoring the seriousness of the challenge, Cohen said the nation's critical infrastructure spans all segments of the economy. It "not only runs from air traffic control to financial transactions, [but] it carries 95 percent of all Department of Defense communications [and] everything from satellite navigation, to command and control, to transportation," Cohen said.

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