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Cybersecurity Within the Coast Guard

 

Every military era since the mid-19th century can be identified with a new weapons technology, from repeating rifles to tanks, airplanes to nuclear bombs, precision-guided munitions to computers to unmanned aerial vehicles. The type, mission, and primary service user of each has covered the full gamut of military operations, but rarely has one affected every layer of all uniformed services, all of government, and every aspect of society, from multinational corporations to criminal enterprises to private citizens. The most ubiquitous and disruptive previous developments were computers and the internet (along with its military and private counterparts). The newest – cybersecurity – grew directly from those two at unprecedented speed. Today, nearly every organization in the world has a cyber person, office, department, or command, almost all created since the turn of the century.

In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard created a service-wide Cyber Command with a vision to achieve “a safe, secure and resilient cyber operating environment that allows for the execution of Coast Guard missions and maritime transportation interests of the United States.”

In 2008-09, Coast Guard officials held discussions with other military services about the stand-up of their cyber commands and how they would be working with U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). The service’s commandant at the time, Adm. Thad Allen, directed his deputy to look into what it would take to stand up a Coast Guard Cyber Command (CGCYBER).

In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard created a service-wide Cyber Command with a vision to achieve “a safe, secure and resilient cyber operating environment that allows for the execution of Coast Guard missions and maritime transportation interests of the United States.”

They assessed what efforts would become part of the new command and what would remain within traditional Coast Guard units. All cybersecurity functions that were part of the Telecommunications and Systems Command or C4IT Service Center were added to CGCYBER missions to create a more holistic grouping of the service’s existing cybersecurity units, capabilities, and requirements.

The service’s cyber mission is to: identify, protect against, enhance resiliency in the face of, and counter electromagnetic threats to the Coast Guard and maritime interests of the United States; provide cyber capabilities that foster excellence in the execution of Coast Guard operations; support Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cyber missions; and serve as the service component command to U.S. Cyber Command.

In June 2015, the Coast Guard rolled out its new “Cyber Strategy” to ensure all existing Coast Guard cyber-related activities and missions – internal and external – are captured under one strategic document.

Part of DHS rather than the Defense Department (DOD), the Coast Guard was the last uniformed service to stand up a service cyber component subordinate to USCYBERCOM in a direct-reporting capacity. The other service cyber components are the 24th Air Force/Air Forces Cyber (AFCYBER, established in August 2009); Navy Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet (FLTCYBER), and Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER), both established in January 2010; and Army Cyber Command/2nd Army (ARCYBER) established in October 2010.

In June 2015, the Coast Guard rolled out its new “Cyber Strategy” to ensure all existing Coast Guard cyber-related activities and missions – internal and external – are captured under one strategic document.

“Cyber is a new risk factor, but it does not interrupt long-standing and successful regimens for dealing with prevention and response to incidents,” Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft said at the “Cyber Strategy” roll out. “This isn’t about looking for new authorities or missions. We’re doing as we’ve done for 225 years. We’re applying our existing authorities and skills to meet demand in emerging domains.”

The Coast Guard strategy is focused on three goals:

  • defending Coast Guard cyberspace
  • enabling Coast Guard operations
  • protecting critical infrastructure

“The first two are more internal, enabling employees to safely use cyberspace. The second allows the Coast Guard to use cyber-based systems to carry out operations. So the first two are looking at things we control,” according to Cmdr. Nick Wong, chief of the Domestic Ports Division and implementing the external portion of the cyber strategy. “The third is focused on the Marine Transportation System and those we regulate – how does the Coast Guard ensure those operations are carried out in a safe, secure, and environmentally sound manner, accounting for the cyber element?

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...