DOD Launching Cyberattacks?

The U.S. Strategic Command's joint task force for computer network operations was created about 18 months ago and is in charge of defending all Defense Department networks from attack. But there is more. The agency also is charged with initiating cyberattacks when the president or Defense secretary instructs it to do so, according to a joint task force official.

But has the United States ever launched a cyberattack? Air Force Maj. Gen. John Bradley, the joint task force's deputy commander, would not say at last month's AFCEA International TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 conference in Honolulu.

Bradley did say the joint task force's top priority is defense, but going on the offensive in cyberspace is "a new, emerging mission and one that is getting a lot of attention from a lot of people." The task force has done many briefings on the subject, mostly to the Cold War generation of leaders who don't understand the potential power of a cyberattack as well as their younger, Internet-savvy colleagues, he said.

"There's still a long way to go, but this is a great new toolkit for combatant commanders once in contingencies," where it could be used, Bradley said.

The policy work is not finalized and "probably never will be," Bradley said, refusing to say if DOD has ever launched a cyberattack.

In this case, does "no comment" mean "no"?

Pacom Tests Network Links

U.S. Pacific Command (Pacom) is testing a wide-area relay network, designed specifically for the joint task force environment, that will provide a common operational picture for all military services and enable them to collaborate on the battlefield.

The Joint Task Force Wide-Area Relay Network enables "shared situational awareness for a common tactical picture, through the integration of joint forces, maneuvers and intelligence information," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Loyd "Chip" Utterback, deputy director of strategic plans and policy at Pacom.

Pacom officials briefed the Joint Requirements Oversight Council on the network in October. The network "is out there now," but will undergo its first true test as part of the Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand next year, he said. The program should be operational by January 2004.

Meanwhile, Pacom officials signed memorandums of understanding with "two large nations" for intelligence sharing late last month, Utterback said. The memos are mainly for human intelligence, but they do include some sharing of "equipment, crypto technology, and [information assurance] package," he said.

It's Show Time

Later this week, the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) will test the joint air operations center it has been developing as part of the Terminal Fury exercise.

The Center is designed to provide an integrated view of the battlespace through an assortment of command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tools, said Col. Ronnie Hawkins, director of communications and information at PACAF headquarters.

"We'll be stress testing our current [command and control] capabilities, but I can't tell you all of them" for security reasons, Hawkins said. He added that PACAF is working on moving the operations center afloat, and the exercise will include moving part of the center to a deployed location while still reaching back to exploit data on the network backbone in the Pacific and on the U.S. mainland.

And finally: "There's one thing I hate about Hawaii, and I've been stationed here so I can say this: I hate leaving," said Brig. Gen. John Thomas, Marine Corps chief information officer.

We couldn't agree more.

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