A New Emphasis on Intelligence Support to the Cyber Domain

October 1, 2013
By Kent R. Schneider

In the most recent U.S. defense guidance of January 2012, signed for emphasis by both the president and the secretary of defense, cyber was one of the few areas that received both emphasis and increased funding—no small feat in the current budget environment. Part of that emphasis and increased funding goes to the intelligence community to support the cyber domain. Such support requires an expansion of the intelligence mission set, new processes and tools, and new interfaces to the operational community now emerging to command and control the cyber domain.

Full support to the cyber domain requires an expansion of scope as well, as the federal lead for cybersecurity lies with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the Department of Justice with involvement by others. Also, commercial interests heavily own the cyber infrastructure and other elements of the critical infrastructure of the United States. In some categories, more than 90 percent of the infrastructure resides in the private sector. Clearly, new processes and new relationships must be developed by the intelligence community to support this diverse and complex mission.

The challenge of securing and supporting the cyber domain is complicated further by the fact that the cyber infrastructure and the myriad applications running on it were not designed to be secure and integrated at the enterprise level. This entails hundreds of networks and thousands of applications, and many of these create enclaves that cannot be seen from the enterprise level. Initiatives to improve this situation are underway, such as the Joint Information Environment, that will create architectures and standards to harmonize the environment. These initiatives will take years to be fully realized, so that progress will be incremental. In the meantime, it is difficult to obtain a common operational picture at the enterprise level for situational awareness or to see the entire threat picture.

For our international members who may be saying, “You Americans—you have created such disconnected infrastructures,” they would be right, but they are in much the same situation. NATO, as an example, has its own enterprise networks and applications, which then must work with the national systems of all the member nations. All of the same challenges exist, and similar initiatives are underway to improve the situation.

So, what is the intelligence community to do? It has developed procedures and tools to gather as much situational awareness information as possible under present conditions. In addition, the community is an integral part of the programs to harmonize the environment and make it more defendable. Cyber is the ultimate team sport, and new relationships have been established to bring together this complex set of players. It truly is an international endeavor, and leaders have created coalitions to work the problem.

AFCEA is working with all the parties to advance the dialogue and improve teamwork. The AFCEA Cyber Committee currently is chaired by Jill Singer, former chief information officer (CIO) of the National Reconnaissance Office, and John Gilligan, former CIO of both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Department of Energy. This committee comprises senior members of government, industry and academia, and it is conducting studies in areas of importance and preparing white papers for circulation to government and industry. In addition, committee members are working with the AFCEA Intelligence Committee to examine the necessary relationships and processes to bring these communities together.

These committees are working together on relevant forums. Both committees supported the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium conducted in Baltimore in June by working with the U.S. Cyber Command. In July, the Intelligence Committee presented an unclassified program at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., that addressed intelligence support to the cyber community. This program was well received. On December 10-11, in Brussels, Belgium, AFCEA will present a similar program highlighting how the intelligence community is changing, with emphasis on the role in supporting cyber. Anyone who is not participating in these forums is missing an important dialogue on one of the most important topics in government and industry today.

Cyber has been identified in every part of the world as the number one threat arena. Be part of the effort to address this threat. Become engaged.


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