Bloomberg News

Pentagon Revising Rules for Cyber-Attack Response, Dempsey Says

June 27, 2013

The Defense Department is rewriting the rules of engagement for responding to computer assaults on military networks, Army General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military official said today.

To ensure that the military “is able to operate at network speed, rather than what I call ‘swivel-chair’ speed, we now have a playbook for cyber,” Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in prepared remarks for a conference in Washington. Those rules are being updated for the first time in seven years to improve command and control for military forces responsible for defending against cyber-attacks, he said.

Under directions issued by President Barack Obama that spell out how different parts of the U.S. government must respond to an attack on networks, the Pentagon “has developed emergency procedures to guide our response to imminent, significant cyberthreats,” Dempsey said at the event organized by the Brookings Institution.

Efforts to consolidate the Defense Department’s “sprawling mass” of 15,000 networks include “building a secure 4G wireless network that will get iPads, iPhones and Android devices online by mid-2014,” Dempsey said.

“In fact I have a secure mobile phone with me here today,” he said. “This phone would make both Batman and James Bond jealous.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this month cited “the growing threat of cyber-intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military.” His predecessor, Leon Panetta, said last year that “a cyber-attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11.”

Companies Falter

While the U.S. military has made significant progress in being able to defend against attacks on its networks, “our nation’s effort to protect civilian critical infrastructure is lagging,” Dempsey said. “Too few companies have invested adequately in cybersecurity,” which may allow adversaries to exploit weaknesses, he said.

Since Dempsey became chairman of the Joint Chiefs in October 2011, intrusions into U.S. critical infrastructure, including computer systems that operate chemical, electrical, water and transportation systems,“ have increased 17-fold,” he said.

In the next four years, the Pentagon plans to spend $23 billion on cybersecurity and hire 4,000 recruits for the effort, Dempsey said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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