DOD creates new office to battle cyberterrorism

Deputy secretary John Hamre says
that cyberspace has no definable geographical borders.





In what deputy Defense secretary John Hamre called a radical departure, the Defense
Department is creating a new office to defend the United States’ infrastructure from
cyberattack.


It’s radical because the scope of the work is outside DOD’s jurisdiction, he
said last month at the Defense Special Weapons Agency’s Annual International
Conference on Controlling Arms.


“The Department of Defense only deals with threats outside of the borders of the
United States,” Hamre said. “If it’s inside of the borders of the United
States, it is a law enforcement problem.”


With the exception of locks and dams, which fall under the auspices of the Army Corps
of Engineers, DOD has not had responsibility for protecting the nation’s
infrastructure, Hamre said. But in the digital information age, split-second global
computer communications makes internal and external threats harder to define, he said.


“Cyberspace doesn’t know geographical boundaries,” Hamre said.
“We’re looking at a future where, frankly, DOD doesn’t have any primary
responsibility or jurisdiction but almost inevitably will be pulled in very early in any
cyberprotection role.”


The new office, which DOD officials still must name, will be part of the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence and
will manage Defense efforts to safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructures.


These include telecommunications, banking and finance, energy, transportation and
essential government services.


“Because of our constitutional orientation and our history, [DOD] is not going to
be the lead in anything, but we will be the backbone of everything, when you get down to
it,” he said.


The DOD office will work closely with the Justice Department’s National
Infrastructure Protection Center and the multiagency Critical Infrastructure Assurance
Office, Hamre said. “We have committed ourselves and are supporting the National
Infrastructure Protection Center,” Hamre said. “We provide the deputy, and
we’ll provide, I believe, three of the five heads of the directorates.”


The FBI’s new National Infrastructure Protection Center, at FBI headquarters and
headed by Michael Vatis, will gather threat and vulnerability data and then disseminate
analyses and warnings of threats to both the government and private sector.


“We are actively partnering with the Department of Justice and the FBI,”
Hamre said. “I meet on a monthly basis with the attorney general and with the
director of the FBI as we are laying out our plans on the NIPC.”


The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, which the Commerce Department spearheads,
serves as the national planning office for the Clinton administration’s Critical
Infrastructure Protection Program and works with Richard Clarke, the newly appointed
national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism.


Hamre said that DOD will work out the details on the new DOD office later this
month. 

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