Reserve IT corps a sensible idea

Since the American Revolution, the United States has relied heavily on its citizen soldiers to defend the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In fact, as seen during the recent war in Kosovo, the Defense Department would be hard pressed to carry out a major military operation without the support of the National Guard and reserves.

It makes perfect sense, therefore, that DOD turn to reserves to help it confront the challenges of the 21st century's information "revolution"—a revolution that exposes the nation's critical infrastructure to hackers and various forms of cyberterrorism.

The Reserve Component Employment Study 2005, a year-long internal DOD study completed in July, recommended forming a 400-person "joint [reserve component] virtual information operations organization" to monitor critical networks and infrastructure nodes for attacks. It is one of DOD's most innovative ideas and one that deserves consideration.

The reserves are full of talent—talent that often lays dormant during peacetime. Aside from its cadre of doctors, lawyers and bricklayers, the reserves boast a healthy complement of certified network engineers, programmers and system administrators. The skills they possess are the very skills that the new cyberdefense corps will need and which DOD has been desperately seeking to retain in its ranks.

But creating a cyberdefense corps to operate in real time within the confines of the continental United States—under the auspices of the proposed Joint Task Force for Homeland Defense—undoubtedly will raise serious concerns about privacy and the use of the military as a pseudo-police force.

In fact, privacy organizations across the country already are warning of Big Brother-like intrusions in the wake of the government's growing interest in forming new critical infrastructure protection organizations.

While the reserve cybercorps is a great idea for protecting internal DOD networks and systems, care should be taken to ensure that it does not overstep its bounds. With the DOD report now available for comment, one can almost hear the alarm bells in Concord, Mass., sounding once again.

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