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AFCEA Cyber Space Conference (Washington, D.C.)
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thank you, General Meyerrose [Major General (Ret.) Dale Meyerrose] for that nice introduction… and, thanks for your service to America.

Good morning!  It’s great to see everyone… Thanks to Secretary Chertoff for his remarks and participation earlier this morning… And, thanks to AFCEA for putting together this important conference.

The topic of today’s discussions is vitally important to the Department of Defense, our colleagues at Homeland Security, the global business community, our nation, and our allies and friends.  In fact, just yesterday during his remarks at West Point, President Bush emphasized the importance of close cooperation between government, military, and the private sector to improve security in cyberspace.

DoD and our Military Services… in the modern world in which we live… rely heavily on cyber-technology.  Cyberspace has become a key domain – in a similar context to land, air, and sea – through which government and military leaders can pursue, achieve, and enhance their objectives… and, this has changed at a pace few would have anticipated. 

As such, it is vital that leaders and operators understand the capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities of computers, computer networks, and cyber-technologies… in the same way they would any other warfighting tool or system… the same as a radar system, a missile, or a tank. 

And just as with other national and military assets, we need to support and protect information movement in cyberspace.  Just as we defend against any attempts to constrain the U.S. Navy’s free movement at sea, the same goes for the domain of cyberspace… America… and our allies and friends must have full, unconstrained, and secure freedom of action. 

Today, the threat of cyber attack by both state and non-state entities is very real, persistent, sophisticated, and dangerous. 

The move to cyberspace networks has undoubtedly provided our Armed Forces with a very valuable capability… but, it has also greatly increased our vulnerability.  While we have classified networks in DoD, in many ways we are like corporate America.  Many of our business systems rely on open networks.  DoD actively defends against thousands of network attacks, intrusions, and other incidents every day.  In response, the Nation and DoD have added billions of dollars and innumerable initiatives to counter cyber attacks.

DoD continues to work in concert with other government agencies, industry, international partners, and academia to assist in the mitigation of these cyber-threats. 

With regard to vulnerabilities, the evolution from localized cyber-crime to well-funded and well-organized cyber-warfare has greatly increased the threat and the consequences.  McAfee, the internet security company, estimates that already more than 120 countries and other trans-national organizations have developed ways to use the Internet as a weapon against financial, political, and military targets.(1) 

All of you are aware that in recent years… various state- and non-state entities have increased efforts to breach U.S. business and government systems, especially within DoD and State Department.  It has even been reported that President-elect Obama’s staff has been targeted by hackers. 

In particular, there have been several articles recently written about the threat of cyber-attack from physically people located in China, Russia, and elsewhere.  The U.S. takes all of these threats very seriously… and, as you know, we are working hard to protect against them. 

However, my view is… while we need to address these specific threats and be aware of what other countries are doing… our real focus should be on developing a robust U.S. capability. 

That is, based on my own experience in the business world, companies focus too much on their competitors … rather than building products based focusing on the customer.  I’m less concerned about what others are doing than I am on what we’re not doing … and it’s broader than just cyber. 

To ensure that our country remains secure and competitive… we need a workforce that can compete, adapt, and overcome broad technical challenges now and in the future.  And, it’s not just our military… it’s a national workforce that can do that. 

Unfortunately, right now in the U.S., the number of scientists and engineers is declining at a time when numbers in many other countries are increasing.  This decline in science and technology poses the greatest long-term threat to our country… including our cyber networks.

And, the current forecast doesn’t look promising…  Some experts, for example, are estimating that there are more honor-level students enrolled in computer science and other technical programs in China than the total number of U.S. students enrolled in these programs.  Now, I don’t want China not to have honor students – after all, that’s what all nations should be doing… including the United States! 

Instead, our nation should see this type of statistic as a challenge… a challenge to increase the number of honor-level students in our math, computer science, and engineering programs… Because that’s what it’s going to take for our country to stay competitive, prosperous, and secure in the future. 

Education is the key…  That’s why the President's Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative has identified cyber education and training as one of its critical areas of focus.

As a nation, we need to identify and nurture the best talent... and, make sure we’re providing an environment for students and companies to excel in these critical areas so they can contribute to our prosperity and national defense.   Fortunately, our Nation has a free-enterprise system that has excelled in researching, developing and producing advanced technology – but those companies rely on technical talent.

Regarding the protection of networks, processes matter a lot.  But at the core, it’s still technical knowledge that will be required to protect and defend networks.

Now, I’m hopeful that there is a silver lining in this current financial crisis.  Based on my own experiences and judgment, I firmly believe that value comes from real assets as opposed to financial leverage on assets.  Financial instruments and markets add wealth and enable the development of assets, but they are not real assets.  For example, a home is a real asset.  When the basic value of that asset decreases or when the value of that asset is in question, then the financials built on those real assets tend to collapse, particularly when high leverage has been employed to finance that asset.  That’s at least part of what we’re seeing today.

Hopefully, going forward our citizens and youth are going to be more focused on initiatives like design, production, and  engineering that create real national assets and value.  This shift can offer a great opportunity to refocus America’s energies and strengthen our position as the world’s technology leader in the 21st century. 

If we don’t shift back from the legal and financial emphasis of recent years to basic value asset creation, then the Nation will lose in cyber… and will lose in other technical domains, both commercial and military… and we will lose by sheer weight of numbers.

Lastly, looking into the crystal ball, it is clear that the threat of cyber attacks will be part of future warfare.  We have seen it on a small scale already.  This larger future threat will of necessity require DoD to change its thinking and planning, much like the first use of gunpowder changed the nature of warfare centuries ago.  And, my judgment is that we are in the very early stages of this process.

That’s why this threat is a priority of this and the next Administration and the Congress. And, the Interagency community needs to continue to work together across government, and in partnership with industry and educational institutions to further improve our nation’s security, collaboration, and processes.

I encourage all of you to make the most of this conference – reach out to your counterparts in other agencies and organizations… to help to find ways to further strengthen and protection our Nation’s most vital interests.

More importantly, commit yourselves to personally nurture careers in science and technology… and, as taxpayers, demand excellence in math and science in every school and at every grade level.  The survival of our networks and Nation depends on it.

Wherever I go I tell people about a remarkable thing that happens every morning here in America… in the cities, towns, and states across this great nation – in Washington, D.C., in Virginia… Texas, California, Idaho, Montana… everywhere.  The remarkable thing that happens every morning is that every single person wakes up free.  And, this doesn’t happen by accident… not by chance… and, it’s not by some inalienable right. 

It happens because great Americans for over 230 years have risked and in some cases given their lives for our freedom.  And, they continue to do so today in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places around the world.

It has been my privilege to serve alongside many of these men and women over the last eight years… and I thank you for the important work that you're doing.

Thank you.

1 McAfee Virtual Criminology Report; www.mcafee.com/us/research/criminology_report.