Missouri National Guard Capt. Kevin Keeney called for Congress to write legislation funding a new uniformed service called U.S. Cyber and to consolidate all cyber personnel, equipment, and missions under it.

“This will enable a single organization to provide the needed focus on recruiting, training, doctrine, retention, and care for its service members,” wrote Keeney in his opening statement at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on May 10.

The proposed service would be made up of “no more than 50 percent active, and no less than 50 percent reserve forces,” according to Keeney. He said that, right now, active military and national guard services are restricted in whom they are allowed to partner with, such as state governments and private entities. A combined service would have increased flexibility.

Keeney said the Internet is connected across government and the private sector, but the  government addresses cyber differently, often separating jurisdictions across different agencies and congressional committees for oversight.

Specifically, Keeney said that cyber issues “cannot be dealt with committee by committee” and that “there is a little bit of a rice bowl fighting amongst the services.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., agreed that the U.S. military was experiencing a “total turf war” in cyber and called the proposed U.S. Cyber service “a very good idea” despite likely military pushback.

Keeney said that current military standards for personnel often prevent less physically adept cyber professionals from joining the service, despite their much needed technical expertise. A separate cyber service would be able to set different hiring standards to be more inclusive. Keeney added that a double-leg amputee service member, for example, could still serve their country through the cyber service.

“I don’t know if we can do that inside the existing military construct,” Keeney said.

An exclusively cyber service may be sorely needed, as other witnesses testified that the U.S. is losing in the cyber arena, and that attacks are becoming increasingly politically motivated.

“The amount of time, money, and talent that our country is diverting from other issues and devoting to cybersecurity is real and growing. All of these problems are real and growing, and they are getting worse,” said Steven Chabinsky, global chair of data, privacy, and cybersecurity at White & Case. “In short, we are losing. The nation that invented the Internet, and so many of the connected technologies the Internet has made possible, increasingly is falling prey to it.”

Jeffrey E. Greene, senior director of Global Government Affairs and Policy at Symantec, testified that 2016 saw an increase in overt cyber espionage, which Chris Townsend, Federal vice president at Symantec, told MeriTalk is a “major concern.”

Brandon Valeriano, Donald Bren chair at the Marine Corps University and Adjunct Fellow at the Niskanen Center, said that cybersecurity is not purely a technical problem, and “in short, geopolitics matter.”

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Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur
Jessie Bur is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Cybersecurity, FedRAMP, GSA, Congress, Treasury, DOJ, NIST and Cloud Computing.