U.S. Cyber Commands Launches 13 New Cyber Protection Teams

Federal cyber protection efforts grow this month with new soldiers being deployed across the nation to protect America's digital borders.

by Colin Wood / December 16, 2015
Members of a cyber protection unit with the Hawaii Air National Guard conduct cyber defense operations during a training exercise in June. As cyber warfare takes on an ever increasing role, the Guard announced plans to activate additional cyber protection units spread throughout 23 states by the end of fiscal year 2019. Those units are part of service-specific cyber requirements and provide additional capabilities to deter cyber threats across a wide array of platforms. Photo by Airman 1st Class Robert Cabuco/Released

The National Guard Bureau will deploy 13 new cyber protection teams composed of about 500 soldiers across the nation to help protect the network infrastructure, the military arm announced Dec. 9. The Air Guard will also deploy four new "Cyber Operations Squadrons" in Idaho, Michigan, Texas and Virginia, along with a "cyber Information Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) squadron" in California and a "cyber ISR group" in Massachusetts. Collectively the deployments are geared toward a federal effort to protect against mounting cyberthreats. The teams will run simulations, and share contacts, information and resources with local organizations to help thwart and prevent attacks.

The cyber protection teams will be deployed across Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, joining four teams already deployed across California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

The teams are positioned around the nation's 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency response regions. This infrastructure is needed to support operations in the growing cyber world, said Air Force Col. Kelly Hughes, chief of the Space and Cyber Warfare Operations Division at the Air National Guard Readiness Center.

"This is the beginning," Hughes said in a press release. "This is a massive amount of force structure the Guard has laid into this mission, but this is just the first layer."

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's office said the state is proud to be part of the Guard's expanding cyberdefense program.

“A National Guard cyber protection team is a great resource and represents an opportunity for Wisconsin and the Midwest to effectively collaborate on cyberdefense,” Walker told a local Wisconsin news outlet. “Our National Guard already has existing relationships with local governments and private industries, and this team will be a critical asset in sharing resources and defending our cyber infrastructure.”

Walker explained that each team will specialize in a different aspect of defense.

"The mission protection team will partner with existing National Guard computer network defense teams, and other government agencies, academic institutions and industry partners, while providing comprehensive risk mitigation for military cyber infrastructure," he told the news outlet.  "A cyberthreat emulation team will specialize in simulating the latest in cyberadversary techniques. The cyber support team will be aimed at providing technical support during exercises. Other teams will actively hunt down cyberthreats to military networks, and conduct inspections and reviews after cyber events to provide feedback and lessons learned."

The U.S. Department of Defense authorized the creation of a U.S. Cyber Command made of 133 teams in 2009. The efforts now underway are part of an additional 2,000 military reserve and national guardsmen to be activated by the end of 2018.