The Defense Department continues to work through its policies and procedures for providing cyber security support to domestic agencies and entities in response to congressional and executive direction, a senior Defense Department official said last week.

“My goal in the long-term is to normalize cyber support to civil authorities by fully integrating it into the department’s existing and long-standing policies and procedures for Defense Support to Civil Authorities across all domains,” Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, told the House Armed Services Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee in is written statement on March 13. This effort includes refining guidance for routine DoD support to state and local governments, he said.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security. DoD Photo

The department is also reissuing policy guidance for its personnel that support non-DoD entities as part of military training, said Rapuano, who also serves as the Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense. This guidance “also details how National Guard personnel can use certain DoD information, networks, software, and hardware for State cyberspace activities,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security has the lead role in protecting the federal civilian government and in helping to protect domestic critical infrastructure. The Defense Department’s mission is overseas warfighting, Rapuano said.

“That said, we have a renewed focus on supporting our fellow agencies domestically,” which is done through the sharing of intelligence to DHS, which shares that information to the FBI, state and local governments, and the private sector, Rapuano said.

Last year DoD and DHS signed a Memorandum of Understanding on how the departments can cooperate to defend the homeland from cyber security threats. Under this effort, the departments have recently created a Cyber Protection and Defense Steering Group that “provides us with visibility into existing areas of DoD-DHS cyber cooperation, enabling us to synchronize our efforts more effectively,” Rapuano said.

Under the Trump administration, DoD has put more emphasis on defending forward in the cyber domain, which means going after threats to U.S. critical infrastructure at the source, including influence operations, Rapuano said. In addition are DSCA authorities to boost their capacity as needed, he said.

At the same hearing, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, provided a detailed account of how his command, NSA, DHS, and others, including international partners, put a focus on thwarting Russian efforts to influence the 2018 congressional mid-term elections (Defense Daily, March 13).

DoD is also looking at how it can better use the National Guard to support the department’s cyber missions, particularly around protecting defense-related critical infrastructure “for which we are dependent on for power projection as well as weapons systems,” Rapuano said.

The theft of technology from the nation’s defense industrial base is putting at risk the nation’s “asymmetric superiority,” he said.

DoD for years has shared cyber threat information with the defense industry and is taking further actions to protect data and technology. Rapuano said that an interagency working group has been stood up that is led by the FBI “to ensure that the U.S. Government is operating in a unified manner and maximizing the unique capabilities and authorities of every participating department or agency.”