Officials push for intell, action

Striking a balance between dwindling human intelligence resources and blossoming information technology tools — and acting quickly on the information gathered — are key factors in protecting the Army and Air Force from cyberthreats and achieving success in the war on terrorism, according to a pair of service leaders.

Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, director of Army operations, said that cyberwarfare is a threat that the armed services must deal with daily because "a modern or future opponent can get into our decision-making through the cyber domain."

He added that cyberspace is difficult to defend because strikes can originate from anywhere in the world, but the hardest part comes when the enemy is no longer online.

"At some point, if the opponent is blended in with the local culture, tribe or city and is not talking on signals or with computers...then you have to gather intelligence through human sources," McKiernan told Federal Computer Week immediately after testifying at a July 11 hearing of the House of Representatives' Special Oversight Panel on Terrorism. "We need to develop the full range of capabilities, and the right regional expertise, and do it over the long haul."

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) agreed and said that although nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs may be hotter topics right now, "there's a real need to provide a lot more resources" toward the nation's critical infrastructure protection and bolstering its cyberdefenses.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Randall Schmidt, assistant deputy chief of staff for Air and Space Operations, said that coordinating the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance network in Afghanistan was difficult at first and took "ingenuity and cooperation" to come together. He added that process must be sped up and tightened in the future for continued success.

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) asked the DOD officials for their "most significant intelligence need," and both answered with the need to speed the development of unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The ability to provide that asset to operational and tactical commanders, now and in the future...and put it into the hands of the warfighter...is absolutely critical," McKiernan said.

Schmidt noted that all of this discussion pointed to the importance of the time frame from which intelligence is gathered to when it can be acted upon. "The value of intelligence is only as good as how you [act upon] it," he said.

And that action relies not only on technology, but human intelligence, McKiernan said. "We have to make sure that we have the right resources to achieve that balance."

In his testimony, McKiernan outlined some of the Army's successes in this area during Operation Enduring Freedom, including:

* Prototypes of the Prophet system, a new ground-based surveillance system that enables commanders in the field to intercept radio frequency signals generated by many kinds of electronic equipment.

* Trojan SPIRIT (or Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal), an integrated remote intelligence terminal that can carry high volumes of secure intelligence from national agencies and Army headquarters to commanders in the field. The tool was used within hours after the Sept. 11 attacks and has supported national security at subsequent events, including the Super Bowl. A lightweight portable version has been deployed in Afghanistan.

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