Approximately 300 attend week-long training By Col. Rivers Johnson U.S. Cyber Command Public Affairs Officer
The U.S. Cyber Command, whose mission is to operate and defend the Department of Defense networks, recently conducted its first major tactical cyber exercise called Cyber Flag 12-1 in the first week of November.
The joint cyberspace training exercise, primarily conducted at the Air Force Red Flag Facility at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., included other locations. It brought together approximately 300 cyber and IT professionals for a week to hone their cyber skills in a tactical, virtual environment against a realistic adversary.
One of the objectives of Cyber Flag was to provide realistic training opportunities for the cyber components and some governmental organizations in executing cyber operations across the full spectrum of operations.
Cyber Flag allowed the command to exercise and institutionalize processes and procedures while at the same time providing a framework for future operational imperatives. The exercise also focused on mission integration between U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber components from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
“Cyber Flag exceeded my expectations,” said Gen. Keith B. Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency. “There was tremendous participation from the service components that included active [military], [National] Guard, Reserve, civilians and contractors as well as from the combatant commands and DoD agencies.”
Alexander said it was a successful team effort with great support from everyone.
The exercise included an opposing force whose mission was to penetrate and disrupt the computer networks of the “good guys,” or Blue Force.
The Blue Force (Cyber Service Components) conducted operations against the opposing forces in addition to defending their own networks. As part of the exercise scenario, daily briefings were conducted to compare notes on how well the integration and synchronization of cyber operations were conducted against the opposing forces and what best practices could be gathered from the Blue Force elements.
The exercise was conducted on a state-of-the-art cyber security training and simulation platform called the Exercise Network, or XNET.
XNET provided participants web access to real-time, real-world security challenges and scenarios just like those they would encounter against an adversary. XNET was created by the CERT Program at the Software Engineering Institute.
“Exercises like Cyber Flag are important to the command because they provide an assessment and a validation of how well the command can perform its real world mission of being able to operate and defend the DoD networks across the full range of cyber operations,” said Air Force Col. George Lamont, the U.S. Cyber Command director of Exercise, Training and Readiness.
He added that the exercise was successful because it enabled the command to integrate and synchronize joint war-fighting efforts with the Service Cyber Components in a realistic scenario.
Cyber security continues to be a priority across the government. The Department of Defense has a critical role in developing and supporting the nation’s cyber security efforts.
The Cyber Flag exercise was just one of the training opportunities to ensure DoD’s cyber security challenges are met. In June 2009, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directed the establishment of the U.S. Cyber Command. Alexander assumed command of the unit in May 2010.
“This exercise was a long-time coming and has been needed for years,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kurt Myers of Navy Information Operations Command. “We were able to collaborate with the other services and we’ll leave here with a lot of lessons learned.”