Cyber Command's New Head: Gen. Keith Alexander

Keith Alexander

Last week, Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, was confirmed by the Senate to head the new U.S. Cyber Command.

CYBERCOM was created by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates back in June 2009 and the command will be responsible for securing the “dot-mil” domain, bringing the cybersecurity responsibilities for the military under a unified structure. This will likely alter the relationship between the military and contractors, with CYBERCOM becoming a focal point for cyber contracts with the military.

Back in October 2009, Defense Secretary Gates announced the appointment of Alexander by President Barack Obama. “We are pleased that the Senate has moved forward with his confirmation,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “General Alexander brings to the job the leadership to stand up this command, and the skills and expertise that will be critical to the new command in dealing with security challenges in the cyber domain.”

In addition to its responsibilities in securing the military’s networks, CYBERCOM will also provide advanced warning of impending cyber attack and can be called upon to provide support in securing the nation against cyber threats. Nevertheless, during his confirmation hearing in April, Alexander assured members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that CYBERCOM would not be responsible for civilian networks. Instead, DHS would have that responsibility, in coordination with the private sector.

“It is absolutely important to have DHS provide security for those networks,” Alexander said.

In a recent article on The New New Internet, Melissa Hathaway, who led the 60 Day Cyberspace Policy review for the Obama administration, discussed why partnerships are absolutely critical for cybersecurity, and the best way to transform the current partnership structures to make them more effective.

Melissa Hathaway

“Both parties, government and industry, must articulate a direction for future engagement,” she writes. “Industry must be brave enough to say no, we cannot participate in one more effort.  And the government, especially the Department of Homeland Security, and every other executive branch entity with more than one partnership addressing cybersecurity should review and eliminate the overlapping and duplicative efforts.”

The number of cyber incidents continues to increase. During his confirmation hearing, Alexander said the military’s networks experience “hundreds of thousands of probes everyday” and he has “been alarmed by the increase, especially in this year.”

“Our most important resource right now is time,” Hathaway writes. “We can no longer afford to fall short of operationalizing the private-public partnership and secure our Nation’s networks.  I am willing to double down, are you?”

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