Cyber Commander: US Has No Manpower, Authority to Fight Cyber Attack on Homeland, Allies

Keith B. Alexander, Cyber Command

The U.S. military lacks educated cyber warriors and the legal authorities it needs to respond to a cyber attack on the nation or its allies, and a crisis would quickly deplete the force the U.S. does have, the chief of Cyber Command said yesterday.

Gen. Keith Alexander, who is dual hatted in his roles as chief of the U.S. Cyber Command as well as the National Security Agency, told Congress he would give the military a grade of “C” in its capability to safeguard Pentagon networks, although he acknowledged there has been progress, according to The Associated Press,

“We are finding that we do not have the capacity to do everything we need to accomplish,” he said, according to AP. “To put it bluntly, we are very thin, and a crisis would quickly stress our cyber forces.”

The cyber chief said cyberspace should not be allowed to be “a sanctuary where real and potential adversaries can marshal forces and capabilities to use against us and our allies.”

However, as of now, Alexander said, the military does not have the cyber force it needs to defend its networks or to ensure its ability to plan and operate in cyberspace.

Pointing to the recent uprisings in the Middle East and governments blocking Internet access to disrupt protests, the cyber commander also spoke about how other nations have cyber weapons that can devastate infrastructure as powerfully as kinetic warfare.

The U.S. military is prepared to launch cyber attacks to protect critical infrastructure, Alexander said, or respond to an assault on the homeland or U.S. allies. But, he said, the administration and Congress need to better define what the military can do under certain circumstances, including how and when it can take steps to protect civilian networks.

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