The Defense Department plans to work with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence to bolster NATO counties cyber defenses, Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday.

The department “will work with the center of excellence to help nations in three main areas: first, development of cyber defense strategies, second, critical infrastructure protection planning and third, cyber defense posture assessments,” Carter said at a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia with the defense ministers of the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Photo: Pentagon
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Photo: Pentagon

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, located in Tallinn, is a NATO-accredited research and training facility that focuses on education, consultation, lessons learned, research, and development in cybersecurity. Membership is open to all NATO nations, but cooperation projects are conducted jointly with NATO partner countries.

“Becoming a Sponsoring or Contributing Nation gives a nation the possibility to contribute and shape the understanding of cyber security in NATO and among NATO nations,” the center said in a description.

Carter highlighted this initiative because “we must also prepare NATO and our allies for cyber challenges, particularly from Russia.”

The U.S.’s commitment to the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), European activity, cyber cooperation, and NATO hybrid warfare work “are just a few of the ways that we are working in a new way, according to a new playbook, to deter Russia, reassure our allies, ensure interoperability and move forward in time, not backward in time, together as an alliance,” Carter said.

The VJTF is a “spearhead force” created in 2014 to enhance the NATO Response Force (NRF) (Defense Daily, Sept. 2, 2014). The NRF, created in 2002, is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made of land, air, maritime, and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components that the alliance can quickly deploy as needed.

Carter also announced that the United States will temporarily stage one armored brigade combat team’s vehicles and associated equipment in Central and Eastern European countries. This includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery.

Estonia, Lituania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland agreed to host battalion-sized elements of the equipment, which is set to move around the region for training and exercises, Carter said.