Thursday, January 15, 2015

HR 60 – Cyber Defense National Guard

As I mentioned in an earlier post Rep. Jackson-Lee (D,TX) introduced HR 60, the Cyber Defense National Guard Act. The bill would require the Director of National Intelligence to prepare a report for Congress on the feasibility of establishing a Cyber Defense National Guard (CDNG).

The bill does not establish any requirements for this CDNG beyond the most basic. The purpose provided in the bill would be to “to defend the critical infrastructure of the United States from a cyber attack [sic] or manmade intentional or unintentional catastrophic incident” {§2(b)(2)}. The wording is a little bit awkward and it does not specifically cover potential natural cyber catastrophes such as solar storms, or even hurricanes destroying cyber infrastructure.  

Beyond that basic mission description it is pretty much up to the DNI (in consultation with DOD and DHS) how the CDNG would be constituted, supported, trained and deployed. At this point it is not even clear that the CDNG would be a State supported/commanded force like the current National Guard.

It is interesting that the DNI has been designated as the point person for conducting this study. If this were intended to be just a new type of National Guard unit, the point would have been someone from DOD. If the idea were for this to be some sort of new cyber-emergency response agency it probably would have been a DHS study; probably under the auspices of FEMA.

Keeping with the old saw that if the tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails, giving this study tasking to the DNI will almost insure that at least one of the prime missions of the CDNG will be to detect and deter cyberattacks before they become reality. It can certainly be argued that this is the current mission of NSA, but given the bad press that NSA has suffered during the last couple of years, providing a separate agency to look at cybersecurity intelligence activities for critical infrastructure may make such activities more palatable to people outside of the defense community.

Ms Jackson-Lee has a reasonably good working relation with the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and if that Committee had been given responsibility for the review of this bill I would expect that it would be considered by that committee sometime this year. But since the DNI was given reporting responsibility the bill was assigned to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Ms Jackson-Lee is not a member of that committee so I suspect that this bill will die unexamined.

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