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National Guard uniquely positioned to contribute in cyber realm

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
  • National Guard Bureau
The civilian-acquired skills of its members enable the National Guard to make unique contributions in the cyber realm, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Oct. 17.

Lengyel told audience members at the North American International Cyber Summit 2016 that Guard members can be found in high-tech companies ranging from startups to Google and Microsoft.

Lengyel said civilian-acquired skills give guardsmen a unique ability to contribute in their military roles, and it's a two-way street.

"We provide employers the military training and experience our guardsmen take back to their civilian positions," he said.

The National Guard is not a new arrival in cyberspace. Fear that coding issues would cause problems after Dec. 31, 1999, – popularly known as the Y2K or Millennium Bug – prompted the formation of what are now called Defensive Cyberspace Operations Elements in each of the 50 states, three territories and Washington, D.C., where the National Guard operates.

Networked technology has created tremendous freedom and opportunity, Lengyel said. "As with anything that is open and free, it presents some real vulnerabilities to those that would exploit them," he said. "The cyber domain also presents us with some of our greatest challenges from a security perspective."

Challenges include protecting critical infrastructure, maintaining the freedom and agility of networked technology in spite of threats, defending Defense Department networks, defending the homeland against cyber threats and providing secure integrated cyber capabilities for military operations.

"We have to build close relationships, partnerships and bridges with the rest of society when it comes to cyber," Lengyel said.

The summit, which initiated in 2011, reflected those partnerships. Hosted by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the summit was a collaborative effort with the National Governors Association, the Department of Homeland Security, private industry, educators, students and local partners.

"We are experts at building enduring partnerships on all levels – international, federal, state and local," Lengyel said of the National Guard.

National Guard contributions include working closely with the combatant commands, especially U.S. Cyber Command, to fight off cyber incidents.
Forty cyber units in 29 states support National Guard and CYBERCOM missions – a number scheduled to grow through 2019.

Two National Guard units are currently augmenting the active force in the cyber domain, just as guardsmen contribute every day in more traditional domains.

"We are active in nearly every facet of cyberspace operations," Lengyel said. "And we practice our capabilities routinely at all levels."

Lengyel mentioned recent cyber exercises in the U.S. and with overseas partners, as well as Cyber Guard, a CYBERCOM-hosted national exercise that simulates a domestic cyber incident with catastrophic disruption, bringing guardsmen together to train with industry partners, active component troops and federal agencies.

Noting that 10,000 guardsmen recently contributed to the response to Hurricane Matthew, Lengyel said, "Just as the National Guard is ready to respond to major hurricanes, we now have contingency plans for major cyber incidents.

"The more our world and society connects via the net, the more we are vulnerable," Lengyel continued. "Cyber warfare is a battle space that will only get more challenging. It's a battle space available to all – both state and non-state actors. … Staying one step ahead requires cooperation and teamwork."

Success requires public-private and international partnerships, Lengyel said.

"I challenge each of you to think and communicate how we can develop a culture of innovation to secure against those who wish to do us harm,” he said. "We simply can't do it without your help."