The anticipated nomination of Jeh Johnson to become the fourth DHS Secretary is welcomed news almost any way you look at it. Johnson’s prodigious resume and professional history is being chronicled by the homeland security, defense and legal establishment writers. Most of those stories will focus on Johnson’s past experience at the Pentagon, but here are the five most pressing issues he ought to address in his confirmation hearing, as well as his tenure as Secretary (should that occur).
As I kid, I loved Superman. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Hiding his identity like a spy. But who was he? “It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No, it’s Superman.” The reason I bring up this dusty piece of nostalgia is my mind drifts toward it every time I hear someone […]
The Department of Homeland Security has been at the mercy of the White House, and nowhere has there been a greater concern than in the seeming lack of urgency in filling vacant positions. What else (other than incompetence) could explain the failure of this Administration to fill the multitude of vacant and dual-hatted positions in DHS leadership? As President Obama is likely to say in his Tuesday night national address, America must take action. Concerning DHS, the President should follow his own advice.
At the beginning of June, NATO held the first Alliance meeting of ministers dedicated exclusively to the subject of cyber defense. this comes at a time when countries are strapped for funds and citizens have little appetite for additional defense expenditures. In the months ahead, NATO will decide how to support members that are the target of cyber attack and request aid. As always, the real test resides in the manner and extent to which agreed-upon principles are operationalized.
In 1999 a technology manager called Kevin Ashton coined the phrase “The Internet of Things”. Today, these “things” now include elements of our critical national infrastructure via what are called SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems or ICS (Industrial Control Systems). Unfortunately, these systems can be just as vulnerable to attack as our laptops.
Senior US intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency (NSA) Director, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, last month continued the cyberwar drumbeat with warnings to Congress that the US is woefully unprepared for a major cyberattack against critical infrastructures.
You have heard the saying, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. News sources and government officials tell us we live in a world of constant cyber attack, so we must be at war, right? In cyber world, this kind of talk is harmful and obscures the new world in which we really exist. We are not at war – we are in conflict, and some of the tools we are using cross interesting and controversial 20th-century political lines.
When I attend various meetings around DC on cyber issues, I often see confusion and challenge – good people trying to resolve confusing issues, wrestling with individual – as well as the country’s – social and political demons. Cyber is a new kind of land. It has no physical dimension. There are no borders or boundaries, and everyone seems to be a part of something that no one can control. People in DC are bit lost right now, and there are some distinct cultural reasons why.
The Jainists of India have a parable. It is the story about the blind men feeling the elephant – each one feels something different. Watching the Federal government roll out a cyber “strategy” over the past couple of week has felt just that way. The cyber-elephant is a vast and ever-expanding body, and Washington is mucking around this way because of two basic problems. In its simplistic form, the first challenge is definitional and the second challenge is doctrinal.
National security leaders like Leon Panetta, Janet Napolitano and even President Obama have been telling members of Congress and the country that unless immediate action is taken, the United States will suffer cyber attacks guaranteed to shut down our power, communication, financial and water infrastructure sectors. Well, I’m not buying it. The politics of fear is a D.C. classic.