NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada – On his way to Silicon Valley, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said a recent intrusion into a Joint Chiefs of Staff computer network shows the military does not have the cyber defenses it needs. Now he wants help.
“That is evidence that we’re not doing as good as we need to do in job one in cyber, which is defending our own networks,” Carter said of the Joint Chiefs breach after receiving classified briefings during an Air Force exercise in cyber and space defenses. “Our military is empowered by and also dependent upon networks for its effective operations. So, we have to be good, and I would say we have to be better at network defense than we are now.” The compromised Joint Chiefs unclassified email server went back online earlier this month.
Carter said his desire to increase the military’s computer defenses is one reason he is heading to Silicon Valley on Friday to recruit outside help.
“I’m trying there and elsewhere…to encourage interest in our nation and a back-and-forth of people,” he said, “so that our people have the benefit of getting to know the technology, the culture, and the business practices and so forth of the commercial sector, and we draw the commercial sector into the great mission of helping us protect the nation.” His trip closely follows Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s recent visit to the Pentagon’s new office, called the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, at Mountain View, Calif. Work brought along the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall.
On the way to California, Carter also responded to reports that a military inspector general had informed Congress it was looking into allegations that intelligence officers were softening their assessments of the U.S. success against the Islamic State, or ISIS, due to political pressure. Carter said he could not comment on the specific report, but that he expects full candor from intelligence, military and diplomatic officers.
“I myself have tried to be very candid throughout about my own assessments of the counter-ISIL campaign,” Carter said. “I also expect candor on the part of everybody else. That’s the only way that we can know what we’re doing, how we’re doing, and win.”
“We, starting with the president, but all of us need the most candid information and the most accurate information in order to make the kind of decisions that will lead most rapidly to victory. I expect that of everyone in the department. “
Carter earlier presided over the change of command of U.S. Transportation Command, or TRANSCOM, one of the military’s nine combatant commands, at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Air Force Gen. Darren McDew assumed command of the post that runs the military’s global logistical supply lines. He succeeded Gen. Paul Selva, who recently became vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Carter continued to Nellis Air Force Base on the edge of Las Vegas, where the U.S. Air Force is hosting the year’s fourth Red Flag fighter jet exercise. Involving more than 100 aircraft, Red Flag trains fighter pilots, especially, in simulated air-to-air operations that replicate the first phases of new conflicts against other nation states. The current exercise hosted crews from Israel, Jordan and Singapore. The flight line at Nellis held a healthy mix of F-15E Eagles and F-22 Raptors, which are being sent forward into Europe as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to aggravate the conflict in the Ukraine, as well as a few F-35s. The F-35s did not participate in Red Flag, according to a base official.
At all of his stops, Carter is using his trip to promote his so-called “Force of the Future” effort to focus military leaders on reshaping the Defense Department to be better positioned for modern threats, especially in cyber security.
After focusing on the Air Force, Carter is scheduled to watch Marines practice amphibious landings Thursday at Camp Pendleton, in California.