About the time Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was calling President Obama all sorts of names, the President was reminding the G-20 conference in Hangzhou, China, that when it comes to capacity to engage in a cyberwar, well, “’we’ve got more capacity than anybody, both offensively and defensively.’” President Obama may have been considering, in part, the new Global Operations Command that the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) opened last month at Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis.
MORE CAPACITY THAN ANYBODY
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at the Global Ops Center ribbon-cutting ceremony in mid-August, “’We are being attacked constantly by individual hackers, nations and others that are trying to get into America’s intelligence system and our Internet networks.’ ‘What we have here at Scott Air Force Base is the first line of defense for the U.S. when it comes to that cyber war.’” And the President acknowledges that the United States has had what he calls “problems” with Russia and other state actors. And, he said, “’We’re going to have enough problems in the cyber space with nonstate actors who are engaging in theft and using the internet for all kinds of illicit practices.’”
The Global Operations Center has the kind of capacity necessary to respond to both state and non-state attacks. According to DISA Director Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, “DISA inspects 800 million emails that come through its computer network system on a monthly basis. Of those 800 million emails, only about 100 million are good . . . . The rest are malicious, containing malware attachments and cyber attacks.”
DISA’s complex will provide Department of Defense information assurety. It will provide rapid response to network failures or breaches, for instance, in the fiber carrying information around the United States and under the ocean to Europe. Additionally, it will have the capacity to identify malware and respond to the threat, both defensively and offensively. Lynn explains, “’ In real time, when we find a new malware, these guys engineer a fix for it, and they have to do it very quickly and do the counter-attack for it.’”
EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE
The entire facility is nearly 164,000 square feet, and the command center is well-over 31,000 itself. Global Operations Command pulls together all seven of DISA’s operational organizations and employees nearly 1,000 servicemembers and contractors. And those numbers are expected to grow. Now, Col. Paul Craft, DISA commander, said, “Now, all of those employees are in one integrated facility.”
The big Global Operations Command footprint is a boon for Illinois. It represents a $100 million federal investment in the state. And the impact for local businesses supporting the command center, not to mention the business the center will bring to Illinois, may be substantial. According to American Security Today’s Tammy Wait, the facility is designed “to run 24/7 cyber operations, seats more than 330 employees per shift, making it the largest of its kind in the Department of Defense.” “In addition to its conference and meeting space,” Wait adds, “the complex houses a fitness center and café.”
KEEPING UP IN THE CYBER-COLD WAR
The development, deployment, response, and counter-response in the cyberwar moves at the speed of light. The DISA Global Operations Command center, however, represents “the culmination of a decade of planning and three years of construction,” writes Belleville News’ Mark Hodapp. While the facility came in under time and under budget, 10 years is a long, long time in the cyberworld, and one has to wonder if the facility has built into it, as well, the agility to jump in the race and keep up with the evolution of the threat.