Cybersecurity

Guard, Reserve are X factors in cyber plans

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said the Guard and Reserve provide a "critical surge capacity for cyber responders."

The National Guard and Reserves are underutilized resources and represent a “huge treasure” in the Pentagon’s development of a cyber force, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee this week.

While the Pentagon’s 2011 cyber strategy made cursory reference to the role of the National Guard and Reserves, a strategy that Carter unveiled last month in Silicon Valley highlighted their importance more specifically. The Reserve component “offers a unique capability for supporting each of DOD’s missions, including for engaging the defense industrial base and the commercial sector,” the new strategy states. “It represents DOD’s critical surge capacity for cyber responders.”

The Army National Guard, for one, plans to establish 10 new cyber protection teams over the next three fiscal years.

Carter also announced last month that reservists will help staff DOD’s first full-time outreach office in Silicon Valley, a unit for scouting emerging technology and building direct relationships with the Pentagon. In explaining the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUX), as the office is called, one defense official touted the reservists as “some of the best technical talent in the world,” some of whom “have already funded and sold multiple companies.”

The new office is “an experiment,” Carter reiterated to lawmakers on May 6. “It’s not a costly experiment, but it’s critical, I think, for us to have an open avenue between us and Silicon Valley and … other innovative corridors as well.” Carter did not specify how much the office would cost to erect and maintain, and a Pentagon spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

What Carter did make clear is that the National Guard and Reserves will play a critical role in a cyber mission he has prioritized since becoming secretary in February. Having “the best technology embedded in our military, defending it so that others can’t disrupt it or exploit it, using cyber offensively as necessary and required -- these are all important parts of the future of the military,” the Pentagon boss said in the hearing. “And we have excellent people in both military and civilian fulltime, but there’s a great untapped -- not yet fully tapped -- resource” in the National Guard and Reserves.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is a former FCW staff writer.

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