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News | March 16, 2009

U.S. Strategic Command Aims at Improving Cyberdefense

By Henry S. Kenyon Signal Magazine

Cyberspace is the next great frontier for warfighters. U.S. forces rely heavily on their computer networks for command and control,intelligence and communications, but these architectures also arepotentially vulnerable. In recent years, U.S. government and DefenseDepartment networks have come under increasing attacks and probes fromadversaries as diverse as nation-states to disgruntled individuals.

U.S. Strategic Command's / (STRATCOM's) mission isto secure, defend and operate the Global Information Grid (GIG), allowingwarfighters the freedom to operate across the globe, explains KevinWilliams, director of STRATCOM's Global Innovation Strategy Center. "We arealways trying to find ways to do cyberspace operations better and to takeadvantage of what's going on in the private sector, academia and othergovernment agencies throughout the military," he says.

Williams notes that STRATCOM's commander, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, USAF, isthe first combatant commander responsible for securing, operating anddefending the GIG. Because of this unique responsibility, the command isinterested in finding new ways to secure the GIG and the data that itcarries. One way to find "out of the box" ideas is to solicit them from avariety of sources.

Although there are many cybersecurity conferences and symposia, Williamsexplains that the upcoming event in Omaha, Nebraska , is the first whereattendees can present ideas to help the combatant commander carry out hismission in cyberspace. "There is a real chance to make an impact here. It'snot about replowing old ground. At this symposium we're really afterdiscovering what we don't know and finding bright ideas, opportunities andnew ways of looking at things that we can bring to our commander," he says.

The event's track sessions will provide attendees with the opportunity toparticipate collaboratively to solve a set of problems. The sessions aredesigned to capture information and provide it to Gen. Chilton. Symposiumattendees will be members of the U.S. government, state and localgovernment, industry, business and academia-both domestic and international. By leveraging a broad level of expertise from these thought leaders,Williams says the command will gain new viewpoints to address the challengesit faces. Information from the track sessions will be collected andpresented as a paper after the symposium.

Other issues that will be discussed include operating and securing supplychains, reacting to viruses and other cyber issues. "It's not just about us,or the military or STRATCOM. It's all of us trying to synchronize andprovide a coherent approach to solving these issues," Williams shares.

Operating in and across cyberspace is the theme of the AFCEA/STRATCOM cybersymposium"Advancing Cyberspace Capabilities to Deliver Integrated Effects," whichwill take place on April 7 and 8 in Omaha, Nebraska. The goal of thesymposium is to determine the challenges and opportunities to ensure thatU.S. forces have the freedom to operate in cyberspace.