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NSA Report Urges US Digital Warfare Force

May 5, 2009

New reports from the National Security Agency suggest that the United States needs to build a digital warfare force for the future, BBC News reported.

In a report for the House Armed Services subcommittee, Lt Gen Keith Alexander, who also heads the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command, stated that the US needed to reorganize its offensive and defensive cyber operations.

More resources and training were also needed, according to the report that is to be presented on Tuesday to the subcommittee.

The Pentagon spent more than $100 million responding to and repairing damage from cyber attacks and other network problems over the past six months.

The US Strategic Command, which is currently responsible for securing the US military’s networks, will take on Gen Keith Alexander’s new department in Fort Meade in Maryland in an effort to work alongside the US Department of Homeland Security.

With plans to open in October, the new department is scheduled to be at full strength in 2010.

However, the US relies heavily on industry efforts to respond to cyber threats, according to a separate document from the US Air Force’s chief information officer Lt Gen William Shelton.

“The United States were entirely within their rights to protect themselves,” said Peter Wood, operations chief with First Base Technologies and an expert in cyber-warfare.

He believes the only way to counteract both criminal and espionage activity online is to be proactive and the US must take a formal approach to this.

He also noted that the Chinese are viewed as the source of a great many attacks on western infrastructure, including recently, the US national grid.

“If that is determined to be an organized attack, I would want to go and take down the source of those attacks,” he said. “The only problem is that the Internet – by its very nature – has no borders and if the US takes on the mantle of the world’s police; that might not go down so well.”

Recently, the National Research Council, which is part of the United States National Academy of Sciences, said that current US policies on cyber warfare are “ill-formed, lack adequate oversight and require a broad public debate”.

Such criticisms led to the submissions to the House Armed Services subcommittee as a response effort.

The subcommittee report warned of the “undeveloped and uncertain nature” of the US government’s cyber warfare policies, suggesting it could lead to them being misused in a possible crisis.

President Obama has ordered the US administration to publish the results of a 60-day review on cyber-security.

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