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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Cybercom Chief: Partners Vital to Defending Infrastructure

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 25, 2014 – Building partnerships among the federal government, the private sector and academia is vital to bringing together capabilities in the defense of critical infrastructure, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command said yesterday.

Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, also director of the National Security Agency, shared his thoughts nearly 90 days after assuming command of Cybercom as he delivered the keynote address at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association cyber symposium in Baltimore.

"One of my first takeaways is cyber is the ultimate team sport," he said. "There is no one single organization that has all the answers. There is no one single technology that will solve all of our problems [and] meet all of our challenges. This is a mission set that does not know clearly defined lines."

The Defense Department, traditionally likes to use geography as one way to align its responsibilities to define its problem sets, the admiral said.

"Our networks just flat-out don't recognize geography, which is one reason why U.S. Cyber Command is a little different," Rogers said. "It is organized as a global command focused on a particular mission set."

Rogers noted that DOD provides capabilities to support civil authorities in a wide range of scenarios almost every day all over the country.

"So cyber is no different in that regard," he said. "But it's different in the sense that it's just something new."

Rogers cited a recent meeting with the secretary of homeland security and the FBI director as one of the things he finds himself spending "a lot of time" doing: creating partnerships and relationships that help the U.S. government apply its capabilities to support the broader civil sector.

Cyber legislation "remains a very important part of this journey," Rogers said, because while voluntary information-sharing has shown some progress, "it just has not gotten us where we need to be."

"And I believe we have to come up with some vehicle to help the private sector deal with its very valid concerns about liability," he added. "If we can't bring this all together on a real-time basis, it's like we're fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. And it's a losing defensive proposition to me."

Rogers said being in a defensive mode means an organization is always responding and is "always behind the power curve in general."

"My argument would be it's the offensive piece that tends to have the easier job," he said. "The defensive piece is really the hard work where partnerships, in particular, become so critical for us."

Rogers also said he thinks Cybercom should assist its civilian counterparts in understanding how the federal government is organized to provide them cyber support.

"We are working our way through those steps right now," he said, "but our ability to create those partnerships is critical to the future."

The admiral also said he believes at some point in his time as commander of Cybercom, the nation will see efforts from another nation-state, group or set of individuals designed to cause destructive cyber impacts against critical U.S. infrastructure.

"I believe that will happen in my service lifetime," he added. "So one of my primary focuses is how do you generate the capacity to stop that?"

DOD is going to be only one part of the effort, the admiral said.

"In the end, it's about that broader set of partnerships," Rogers told the audience. "They're going to be the key to our success."

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