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Cybercom's Partnership With NSA Helped Secure U.S. Elections, General Says

March 25, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Being both the commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency improves the ability to provide the nation with speed, agility and flexible responses to adversaries who are increasingly modernizing, getting quicker and getting more sophisticated, the agencys' director said.

Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone testified today at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2022 and the future years defense program.

"We operate in a domain that changes rapidly, and this change is measured in weeks rather than months. Being able to rapidly react to that, as we've been able to prove in the security of elections in 2018 and 2020, is empowered by that relationship," he said, referring to his dual-hatted role.

A man works with network gear.
Cyber Engineer
Stan Woodford, 2nd Audiovisual Squadron chief cyber engineer, prepares the squadron’s mobile production truck to livestream a Space Force induction ceremony at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Feb. 5, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Jazmin Granger
VIRIN: 210205-F-WS125-0002

To defend against foreign interference in elections the Election Security Group was created, he said, noting that it consists of a combined team from Cybercom and NSA. 

Nakasone also mentioned the importance of partnerships with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Guard Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which involves sharing information with those who need it as quickly as possible. 

Cybercom conducted more than 2,000 operations to get ahead of foreign threats before they interfered or influenced the 2020 elections, Nakasone said. 

A man climbs a tower.
High Climb
Harley Campbell, 96th Communications Squadron, begins his climb up a 90-foot training tower Feb. 25, 2021 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Campbell is part of the Cable and Antenna Systems Section of the 96th CS, known as “Cable Dawgs.” They are responsible for the upkeep and protection of the base’s cyber infrastructure.
Photo By: Samuel King Jr., Air Force
VIRIN: 210225-F-OC707-0704C

The general said he wanted to make three important points: "First, Cybercom must be and is able, ready and willing to act. Second, Cybercom's partnership with NSA remains the foundation of our success. And third, we enable our domestic industry, allies and partners by providing critical threat information and insights, which improve their ability to act under their unique authorities."

Cybercom is building on recent guidance from the department, seeking to promote readiness, improve training and attract and retain high-end talent, Nakasone said.

Even with COVID-19 impacts and lengthy security clearance timelines that impact the entire department, Cybercom was able to attract a number of high-end talent to the force, he said.

A woman in a military uniform types on a laptop.
IT Specialist
Army Spc. Josephine Lunde, a communications IT specialist, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, completes a host analysis scenario at a cyber defense engagement at the Sheraton Hotel, Djibouti, Feb. 17, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Davis
VIRIN: 210217-F-YK577-1049

Nakasone mentioned that Cybercom seeks to attract diversity in its force and to root out extremism in the ranks through education, monitoring and good leadership.

"We owe it to ourselves, our workforce and our nation to set and to be the example," he said.