NSA chief to call for better offensive cyber capabilities

The head of the National Security Agency on Tuesday will recommend that the United States needs a major upgrade to its capabilities in both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, handing that responsibility to a new military command in Maryland. In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander will deliver a blunt assessment of the country’s information warfare skills, and it won’t be pretty.

The head of the National Security Agency on Tuesday will recommend that the United States needs a major upgrade to its capabilities in both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, handing that responsibility to a new military command in Maryland. In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander will deliver a blunt assessment of the country’s information warfare skills, and it won’t be pretty.

In the latest hearing on Capitol Hill on information security, Alexander and other witnesses are expected to call for a serious overhaul of the U.S. military’s capabilities. From an AP report on the hearing:

In testimony prepared for delivery Tuesday to a House Armed Services subcommittee, Alexander and other military leaders in cyber matters outlined the challenges to keeping up with rapidly changing technologies and the need for more resources and training. In blunt comments, Alexander acknowledged that cyber training for the Pentagon’s work force is inadequate and must be improved.

In separate prepared testimony, Lt. Gen. William Shelton, the Air Force’s chief of warfighting integration, said the Pentagon relies heavily on industry efforts to respond to cyber threats. That approach, he said, does not keep pace with the threat.

Whoever President Obama appoints to head the much-rumored White House cybersecurity office, there are a lot of indications that the NSA’s Alexander will be the man holding much of the actual power. The new military cyber command will be located in Ft. Meade, Md., which also is the home of the NSA, and the agency has a huge reserve of information security expertise. Though Alexander said at last month’s RSA Conference that his agency was not interested in officially running cybersecurity for the government, he may well end up doing it behind the scenes.

The hearing will be audiocast live at 3:30 p.m. EDT. You can listen in here.

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