In the middle of great controversy surrounding the Edward Snowden leaks, there is no doubt that the National Security Agency (NSA) is in the spotlight and feeling the heat. Recently, in a statement to the NSA workforce, General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA and Commander of the United States Cyber Command, stated the importance of speaking with the nation to “set the record straight regarding NSA’s execution of its foreign intelligence mission.”
“NSA’s primary responsibility is to defend the nation,” according to Gen. Alexander’s statement. And while the controversy in the media often clouds other news and IT initiatives, the agency is staying true to its mission to protect and defend. In particular, the NSA has been embracing new strategies for government cyber security and streamlining overall IT procurement and management. The increasing threat level and existing vulnerabilities within our nation’s infrastructure continue to drive much of the nation’s government cyber security efforts.
Gen. Alexander says the nation’s infrastructure has a protection level of about three with 10 being the highest. A recent House Energy and Commerce Committee report seems to authenticate these numbers. The report found that out of 160 utilities, more than a dozen reported daily cyber attacks. One utility, in particular, reported being targeted 100,000 times each month.
At the GEOINT 2012 Symposium, Gen. Alexander mapped out his vision for our nation’s government cyber security, advocating industry, government, U.S. allies, and academia to work together to address today’s cyber challenges. He also discussed how moving to a thin-cloud environment could significantly reduce costs, while also enhancing our government cyber security efforts.
Since then, the NSA is helping the Intelligence Community (IC) standardize its IT operations across the entire community. The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) program will aim to pool resources for reducing cost. This new environment will also help the NSA reduce the number of systems administrators and improve security. Overall, ICITE aims to reduce the IC’s annual IT spending by 20 percent by 2018.
Under the ICITE program, the NSA will also provide the “applications mall,” which will be a central repository for apps that can be reused within the IC. And it will open up cloud computing services to the community, providing data, utility, and storage clouds.
So while the Snowden controversy is still out there, the daily drive to improve IT services and government cyber security efforts continues to be a focus at the NSA. And to drive home the importance of their efforts, Gen. Alexander told employees that they “will move forward from this and by dint of solid strategy, hard work, and partnership will continue to protect the nation from harm.”