Guard Seeking Bigger Role in Cyber Defense

Thirty-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.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • oblatt2

    The great thing about guard cyber effort is that it can spy on people in coffee shops and libraries. Places where a uniformed serviceman would be noticed.

  • Clint Notestine

    The National Guard actually guarding the nation?

    • scott

      the national guard doesnt just respond to the nation, it gets its orders from their state

  • Jacob

    Just out of curiosity, is there a reason why the cyber defense mission is given to the DoD rather than say, the Department of Homeland Security?

    • Big-Dean

      Jacob, the DOD “cyber” dudes only protect the DOD. So National Guardsmen are training to protect Army stuff.
      Each branch (Army, Navy, air force, Marine corp) has it’s own cyber department, thus each branch takes care of their own, in spite of what the air force says…

  • Bbobob

    is it a good time to take computer science for rotc? heading off to college soon

    • blight_

      Take a data mining/machine learning course…though it will require some grounding in computer science.

      It’s unlikely the DoD needs more programmers. It’ll need guys who understand the theory of fishing diamonds from sand, and the importance of metadata to enhancing signal-to-noise.

      And if you don’t have time for a course, the publisher of my older data mining text has some stuff online: http://www-users.cs.umn.edu/~kumar/dmbook/index.p…

    • FiretheRepublicans

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • eric

    as long as most of the US government is not even close to implementing up to date operating systems and office suites, this is wasted money.

  • wren

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

    How inefficient is that to guard computer networks at the state level?! Computer networks don’t care about state lines.

    • blight_

      What about the Amazon datacenter in State A that holds data from State B?

      Who defends it?

      Answer: Amazon.

      That said, if you build a zombienet in state A and attack state B, does state B’s responsibility stop at defending from the DDos from state A’s computers, and state A’s responsibility is to find and neutralize the zombienet? Who coordinates if its a zombienet with computers in five states plus Romania?

      Governors are clamoring for money for the latest military fad.

      • JCitizen

        Old information, but it is still hard for me to believe we had our own PSTN 800 number phone network for our state Guard system. The only security was that it was dedicated line before solid state electronically switched networks were installed. Our old Zerox communicating memory writers talked back and forth at the blazing speed of 1200 baud! Still can’t believe it even though I was there.

    • Rich

      I understood the article to mean that state governments want to ensure they have help guarding their own networks. Each state has its own Guard network infrastructure, not to mention computer networks handling the states’ DMVs, DOTs, tax bureaus, etc.

  • Been there

    The National Guard has a two-fold mission. First it is primarily the State’s militia in times for state emergency (some states have a home militia in addition to the National guard, but those are funded, managed and responsible only to the states. Second mission is to supplement the Active and reserve components at the national level. NG units are “Federalized” / mobilized under the authority of the President, and at that point must respond to the orders and directives of the Federal government (think Arkansas, specifically Little Rock, and a little thing called desegregation of the public schools, when the President federalized the NG to take control from the Gov when he was going to use the Guard to block desegregation).

    I spent my last five years of my 26 in the Guard working with a DOIM (Direct of Information Management - the CIO for that state’s Guard forces), and 4 of those years in an IO unit (Information Operations - Functional area 30A qualified), and deployed with an IO detachment. There is and has been for a long time a lot of interest in the Guard for this type of activity. Texas has, or at least was very, very active, along with several other states in the IO field. Most DOIMs recognize that, whereas they are responsible for the protection of their state’s network, their responsibility is for the NG portion of the network. They are often separated and the state’s and NG network almost never talk to each other. I have seen a state’s NG network be cut off at the NGB level to protect other states’ NG networks from a rouge virus.

    I know that the NG DOIM shops will cooperate with other state agencies (and often the weekenders…sorry, traditional soldiers come from the private and public sector- raises hand ), but as a rule, the NG is only charged with protecting their own network. They can offer assistance to the state, but they are not mandated.

    Having said all of that, this is nothing new, and I would not have batted an eye if I had seen this 5-10 years ago. Some things are just slow moving…