National Guard expects expanded role in cybersecurity

January 6, 2017

The National Guard’s role in cybersecurity began in 1999 thanks to the uncertainty created by Y2K.

With concerns of potential computer chaos looming when dates on systems turned over to 2000, the National Guard was given a new force structure called a computer network defense team. Renamed Defensive Cyber Operations Elements, the eight-to 10-person teams are organized on the state level, while support for the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency regions is handled by Cyber Protection Teams, Lt. Col. Brad Rhodes, the commander of the Colorado National Guard’s Cyber Protection Team 178, said in an interview with GCN.

The Guard wants to grow its DCOEs to at least 2,800 personnel by 2019, according to Jack Harrison, a spokesperson for Department of Defense’s National Guard Bureau. The Guard has some kind of cybersecurity operation in all 50 states and four U.S. territories, Harrison said in an email. And last year, the Army and Air Force National Guard expanded their cyber units into more states.

This expansion comes as multiple government reports have looked to the National Guard as a resource for states and localities to lean on as cyber threats continue to multiply. The most recent example came in the final report from the White House’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity.

“The Guard represents a talent pool that can be regularly trained, equipped, and called on to protect and defend against attacks on information assets or computer systems and networks,” the report reads. “The Guard could also be deployed after a cybersecurity incident to help recover or restore systems and services to normal operations.

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