Officials push for cyber battalion

Delegation supports National Guard plan for tech protection

Federal lawmakers are urging the Army National Guard to award a cyber battalion in Indiana to aid in the protection of the U.S. from computer-generated threats.

U.S. Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and the state’s nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter of support for the idea and sent it to Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard.

The size of the Indiana National Guard — the fourth-largest Army National Guard contingent in the U.S. — and its current cyber resources, including Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex in Jennings County, make the state a great location for a cyber battalion, the lawmakers’ letter said.

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They sent the letter in an effort to bolster Indiana’s bid, which is led by Maj. Gen. Courtney “Corey” Carr, adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard.

Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is one example of why cyber battalions are needed. North Korea, which is a growing nuclear threat, is another, Donnelly said.

“All you have to do is look at what is going on with the Russians right now. Our country is under attack on a cyber basis — on a daily basis, an hourly basis,” Donnelly said.

Foreign countries and individuals are looking to exploit the U.S. cyber structure, Young said.

“They pose a threat to our security, economy and national liberties,” he said.

“We can make a really strong case that our Guard should augment our national capabilities in cyber and take it to the next level.”

Many aspects of warfare are now cyber in nature instead of troops on the ground, and some countries or groups view cyber as a better way to attack the U.S. than with soldiers, Donnelly said. Cyber battalions are a good allocation of resources, he said.

“Using the resources of this region would be total common sense,” Donnelly said.

Indianapolis is a possible location for the battalion. The Indiana National Guard owns a 12,000-square-foot facility at the Indiana Intelligence Center in Indianapolis that is large enough to support a cyber battalion with about 100 members, and has enclosed, secure areas for discussing classified information, Carr said. The facility’s operating space is suitable to support unit missions, and the location is good for attracting battalion members, he said.

Muscatatuck features the Department of Defense’s only live, full-scale cyber range. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in Martin County has national experts on cyber security and hardware assurance. The Purdue University Cyber Center and Indiana University Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research conduct research and support.

Muscatatuck is different from other cyber ranges because its urban training complex allows tactical troops to practice maneuvers under different scenarios and be supported by cyber units, Carr said.

The idea for cyber battalions comes from the U.S. Army addressing growing cyber threats, the adjutant general said.

The U.S. Army and U.S. Army Cyber Command asked the Army National Guard to develop a way to build cyber warfare capability to counter evolving threats. The Army National Guard reorganized and modernized its cyber force structure to align with evolving mission requirements, said Sgt. 1st Class W. Michael Houk, a public information officer for the Army National Guard.

The Army National Guard created a cyber brigade with subordinate battalions to exercise training and readiness over cyber protection teams. Indiana has a cyber protection team that includes members from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, and is mobilized at Fort Meade in Maryland, Carr said. The unit was created Oct. 1, 2016, and activated in early 2017 — even before members had completed all their training, he said.

“If you’re starting units up and mobilizing them before they go through all their training, you must need them pretty bad. There is a big appetite and demand for cyber units,” Carr said.

The cyber brigade has its headquarters in Virginia and oversees five battalions, four of which have been created. Indiana is hoping to be awarded the fifth battalion, Carr said.

States make their case for the battalion based on strategic need, impact on its existing force and its ability to man, train, equip and sustain the brigade, Houk said. A Force Management Review Board within the Army National Guard reviews the applications and makes recommendations to Army National Guard Force Management, which presents them to the director of the Army National Guard for a decision, Houk said.

The idea of getting a cyber battalion in Indiana is exciting not only for what it can do for security, but also what it could do for growing cyber talent, Carr said.

A majority of National Guard members are part-time, so the cyber skills they possess and would enhance in a cyber battalion would benefit their full-time employers or make them even more attractive to employers that are hiring, Carr said.

Ivy Tech has started a cyber degree program and is utilizing the resources of Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex to help students complete the program, Carr said.

“We think (a cyber battalion) is a good fit with our cyber region,” Carr said.