A Ship Without a Captain



We have been covering cyber now for several months and my work in cyber defense and security has been going on for over a decade. In that period of time the U.S. government has failed to establish the command authority needed to protect the nation. Critical questions have gone unanswered for months or even years. One of those questions deals with where the cyber command operation headquarters will be located. The physical location for cyber command is not yet decided. This has been a hot topic now for the last ten months and multiple states are jockeying for position.

If that is not bad enough, the government has failed to establish a command and control structure and authorities for offensive cyber capabilities, defensive cyber capabilities and cyber intelligence. With billions of dollars of budget at stake, the amount of political posturing and verbal war has risen to heights not seen before. The level of infighting became un-tolerable for Rod Beckstrm, Director of the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) at the Department of Homeland Security. This past weekend he resigned. So what should we do?

I have given this much thought over the past decade and occasionally been asked by those looking into this what I would do. So here it is...


1. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Robert Gates owns the offensive capabilities to fight a cyber war and defenses against cyber attack that originate outside the United States.

2. Homeland Defense (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano owns offensive and defensive cyber capabilities for activities within the United States. (Remember a significant number of compromised computers within the U.S. were used in the DDoS attacks against Estonia and Georgia and the uniformed military cannot be used against it own citizens!) U.S. Strategic Command would include cyber in their unified command structure. In addition, DoD must appoint a liason/coordinator to NATO given their role in cyber peace keeping and response to cyber attacks.

3. The National Security Agency (NSA) Director LTG Keith B. Alexander owns cyber intelligence and espionage activities both inside and outside the United States. They continue to collect, analyze and disseminate cyber intelligence as well as any and all counter cyber intelligence activities.

4. A National Cyber Security Executive is added to the Presidential Staff and coordinates all the efforts of DoD, DHS and NSA. Given the civilian, government, business, education interrelationship that cyber has, this matrixed organizational structure is necessary to fully protect and defend our nation (internally and externally).

5. A National Cyber Attach would be appointed by President Obama and serve as special liaison to the United Nations and other countries in pursuit of international cyber relations.Who should head up America's cyber security?( surveys)

Until the leadership is established and these questions, and other, are answered cyber defense is like a ship without a captain! That is the current situation when it comes to cyber defense in the United States. As long as these questions linger without answers, our nation remains at great risk!

-- Kevin Coleman

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