Wednesday, 18 November 2015 18:04

Cyber Security: Protect the Homeland through Public Private Partnerships Summary

On November 6, 2015, the National War College Alumni Association hosted a Forum in Colorado Springs to convene a community’s Thought Leadership about cyber security.
The event, Cyber Security: Protect the Homeland through Public Private Partnerships, attracted leaders from DOD/DHS, local government, military, academia, and industry. The central theme was empowering a way forward through partnerships among government, academia and the private sector. The consensus that emerged was that more needs to be done, despite solid efforts and some progress to date.

Part of the problem is that in spite of recent high profile cyber attacks, there continues to be a big gap in the understanding of the nature and intensity of the cyber threat on national security between those on the front lines in industry and government and the general public. For example, each year the intelligence community puts out a threat assessment, and yet not many are aware that since 2013, cyber has been ranked ahead of terrorism and named the number one security threat to the United States.

Understanding and bridging this gap is one of the major challenges that has to be overcome in order to develop successful partnerships. It is difficult to discuss issues and find solutions to problems when all sides fail to understand the nature and severity of the threat.

Building trust is a major requirement for forming partnerships. If we don’t solve this problem then the necessary policies, laws, and strategies needed to address the problem will continue to move at a slower pace than the tactics and procedures of our cyber adversaries. Venues like this Forum play an important role in educating the necessary parties on these and other critical issues.

What is the threat? Addressing Congress this year, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, did not call it a war but he did say: “…the reality is we’ve been living with a constant and expanding barrage of attacks for some time.” During the forum one of the speakers mentioned that on average U.S. Northern Command suffered 48 million cyber related events a day.

During his talk at the Aspen Security Forum last month, Admiral Rogers, the Director of NSA and the Commander of US Cyber Command stated “I believe that during my time as the commander of United States Cyber Command, I will be directed to deploy capability from U.S. Cyber Command to defend critical U.S. infrastructure either in anticipation of or in the aftermath a significant cyber event.”

Many of the speakers highlighted the need not just for partnerships and information sharing but also for assessing, training, and growing a cyber work force. NSA and the Department of Homeland Security jointly sponsor a program called the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance. The goal is to promote higher education and research in cyber security. Several of the attendees were participants of the program. The bottom line as one of the speakers stated: “despite all of technology advances, it boils down to people. You need to continually assess, train, and grow a cyber work force”.

In closing, as Colorado Springs moves forward to become the Cyber Security Capital of the World, aligning, partnering and synchronizing the private and public sector’s efforts locally are critical. As discussed and examined throughout this forum, those efforts are people (workforce development), processes, (gaps in training) and technology.

CAPT (ret) Bob Lally, National War College, Class of 2000
CAPT (ret) Gail Harris
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