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Guard Seeking Bigger Role in Cyber Defense

by Bryant Jordan on November 29, 2013

nsaThirty-nine National Guard soldiers and airmen from across the country last month began cyber warfare training at the Guard’s Professional Education Center at Little Rock, Ark. The 18-week course is modeled on the active-duty Army program, the head of the National Guard said during a morning roundtable talk with reporters in Washington.

“Once they’re trained we hope to model that, take those 39 individuals, get them out into the states that they come from … and then build upon that, so when the Army says ‘I want u to build 10 cyber protection units,’ we start building them,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Frank Grass said.

While the Defense Department builds and strengthens cyber warfare capabilities across the military, states also want to be able to protect their own networks from cyber attacks.

And the Guard wants to part of those defenses at every level, said Grass.

Governors “are clambering” for cyber defense units, according to Grass, who hopes eventually to have at least a cyber detachment in each state.

About six months ago the Guard stood up General Officers steering committee of 10 state military adjutant generals and some members of the Bureau staff to establish principles for state and federal guard missions.

He said the Guard already planted the seeds for an Army-trained unit in each state by placing eight Guard soldiers or airmen into their network protection systems Those individuals are now acquiring training and certification so they can be ready to operate as part of a Guard team once the Army calls for them to be established, said Grass.

In a scenario in which the Army is not allowed under Title 10 to respond to a damaged or downed state network, a governor would still have the Guard team available to respond, Grass said.

The advantage the Guard has in building and maintaining cyber defense teams is that it offers the opportunity to bring in people who already are trained and working in information technology. As these people stay on in the Guard, they’ll also grow with the industry, he said.

“We’ve been talking with [U.S.] Cyber Command and the Army and the Air Force, and said whatever force structure you design for the future … the Guard wants to be part of that. However you train and certify those units, we want to buy into that structure,” Grass said.

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