Cyber Attack: Who’s in Charge?

In the event of a cyber attack on the infrastructure of the United States, it would be essential for the Pentagon to know who is in charge of what to bring order to the situation.  The government bureaucracy, however,  seems to be replaying Abbott and  Costello’s “Whose on First?”routine: “I dunno. Third Base!” Obviously a cyber event will be a complicated situation and it requires pre-planning in detail. In the military they do war gaming so they can work out all the scenarios and achieve the best solutions. The Pentagon needs to get started in what it does best.

Aerial view of the Pentagon, Arlington, VA

The Pentagon doesn’t know who’s in charge for responding to a massive cyber attack

As Written By Andrew Tilghman at Military Times:

The Pentagon does not have a clear chain of command for responding to a massive cyber attack on domestic targets in the United States, according to the federal government’s principal watchdog.

While some Defense Department documents say that U.S. Northern Command would have primary responsibility for supporting civilian agencies in such an event, other documents suggest U.S. Cyber Command should be leading that effort, the Government Accountability Office found, according to a new report published Monday.

In the event of an attack on the nation’s electrical grid or financial system, for instance, the Defense Department would be expected to back up the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Yet, the Pentagon has no clear rules in place for how that might play out.

“This absence has caused uncertainty about who in DoD would respond to support civil authorities in a cyber incident, and how they would coordinate and conduct such a response,” according to the GAO report. “The designation of cyber roles and responsibilities in DoD guidance is inconsistent.”

One major issue, according to the GAO, is the role of a “dual-status commander,” a legal designation specifically designed for domestic crises that require military support. Dual status allows a single officer to assume simultaneous command authority over both federal military forces and state-level National Guard troops.


Leave a Comment

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.