Page 17 - FCW, February 2016
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Although often overshadowed by the far bigger Signals Intelligence Directorate, IAD’s mission of protecting sensitive information on government networks is more important than ever
The National Security Agency is at a crossroads, and the key to its compass is the agency’s Information Assurance Directorate.
Although overshadowed by the bigger — and, for some, more intriguing — Signals Intelligence Directorate, IAD’s mission of protecting sensitive information on national security systems is more important than ever. There are not enough hours in the day and, some say, not enough hands on deck at IAD to deal with the incessant stream of vulnerabilities surfacing on government and private-sector networks.
In essence, IAD’s mission includes discover- ing software flaws, and part of the Signals Intel- ligence Directorate’s mission is exploiting them. NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers is keen on forging closer interaction between the two direc- torates, which, despite years of inching toward each other, are still too far removed from each other for his taste.
“This traditional approach we had where we created these two amazing cylinders of excellence and then we built walls of granite between them really is not the way for us to do business,” he said at an Atlantic Council event in January.
“I don’t like these stovepipes that sit in IAD,” added Rogers, who also leads the military’s five- year-old Cyber Command. “I love the expertise and I love when we work together, but I want the integration to be at a much lower level, much more foundational.”
He is on the cusp of unveiling what he says is
the biggest reorganization of NSA in more than 15 years. Details are still under wraps, but Rogers has made it clear that the agency must do better at blending signals intelligence and information assurance to reap a good harvest in the age of big data.
He is not the first NSA chief to push the two directorates closer together. Not long after becoming director in 1996, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan decided to put information assurance resources in the agency’s signals intelligence hub, the National Security Operations Center, said Chris Inglis, who was then a senior opera- tions officer at NSOC.
Minihan’s change “was a big deal” because it helped operationalize information assurance, said Inglis, who retired as deputy NSA director in 2014.
He said another turning point for the role of information assurance at NSA was Operation Buckshot Yankee, the Defense Department’s response to a 2008 breach of its classified sys- tems. IAD specialists played a key role in detect- ing and mitigating the malicious code, Inglis added.
“That put information assurance on a very solid operational footing,” he told FCW.
Nonetheless, Rogers still sees a disconnect between the two directorates and believes that collaboration is starting too far up the chain.
“The way we do it right now, largely the direc- tor — Rogers — is kind of the master integrator, and I’ve told the team...that’s bad for us,” Rogers said. “We’ve got to be flat, we’ve got to be agile.”
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