Army considering adding cyberspace to tactical domains

The Army may follow the Air Force’s lead in setting up a cyber command.

“Cyber war is emerging as just as important as kinetic war, some say more important,“ said Vernon Bettencourt, the Army’s deputy chief information officer at the recent AFCEA Belvoir chapter/Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems industry day in Bethesda, Md.

“We are looking at what the Air Force has done and we keep asking ourselves, ‘Are there any ideas the Army should be adopting?’” Bettencourt added.

The Air Force announced it would create a cyber command last November that would be located at the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The service named Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, as the command’s first chief. The command is scheduled to begin operations in May and be fully operational by October 2009.

Bettencourt said the establishment of the Air Force entity represented a restatement of that service’s mission.

“The Air Force did not just create a new command,” he said. “The Air Force changed its mission statement to say that it fights in three domains: air, space and cyberspace. A development like that is worthy of our assessment.”

To that end, a high-level Army delegation recently visited the Air Force Cyber Command.

“They have amalgamated some capabilities together,” Bettencourt said. “They have consolidated network operations and defense on a global basis.”

He added that the Army already has done some of the same by co-locating parts of its Information Operations Command, its computer emergency response teams and its Network Enterprise Technology Command together at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Bettencourt also said the Army “is leading the fleet” in the use of common access cards.

“It is an important part in defending our huge network,” he said. “In the very near future, we won’t be using passwords anymore.”

Col. Tom Hogan, the infrastructure deputy program director of PEO-EIS, said there was at least one exception to that rule.

“We will continue to honor passwords for retirees,” Hogan said. “We will maintain a way to get into system for all those don’t get CAC cards.”

Bettencourt went on to admonish the defense industry audience not to offer equipment or software to the Army that is not CAC-enabled.

Another Army priority that has emerged is the encryption of data at rest, especially because it has been distributing more laptop computers.

“As a result, we’re having more computers stolen and lost,” Bettencourt said. “We have issued a policy requiring that any computer taken out of the office must be labeled as authorized for travel and that its data must be encrypted. Even if the machine is CAC-enabled so a thief can’t pull out the hard drive and read all of its data” if it is lost or stolen.

Bettencourt said the ultimate decision to stand up an Army Cyber Command will come down to how to best provide cyber capabilities to warfighters.

“We are assessing what it means from a command perspective,” he said. “How do we take information operations capabilities and organization and provide them the combatant or joint force commander?”

Buxbaum is a freelancer writer in Bethesda, Md.

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