It is easy to forget that all success stories usually begin with failure. And, sometimes, they begin with a lot of failures. Anyone looking at America’s space program in the late 1950’s would have seen rockets exploding on launch pads, competing military entities trying to build the rockets and satellites, and a sense of impending doom that the Soviet Union’s ability to do so represented an unstoppable and unspeakable nuclear strike capability against the United States. Yet, out of the chaos, President Eisenhower created NASA and made the Air Force and Intelligence Community coordinate and assemble systems that became the envy of the world. Sometimes, as Mom would say, you simply have to quit talking and begin doing.
The White House announcement of the creation of a Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC) within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence may be that moment for the increasingly nettlesome cyber security issue. The mission is a simple one – “fuse intelligence from around the world when a crisis occurs.” In other words, give the USG, law enforcement and the private sector a place to turn to for information and instruction.
Over the last ten years, we have seen an explosion of cyber space. It has gone from an interesting part of our daily personal, business, and government lives to an essential component. But, it is also an inherently insecure one built to share and never built to handle the sheer massive volume of information with which it is dealing. There are four billion citizens in cyber space. And the number keeps on growing.
The US Government’s reaction to the insecurity of this vital new frontier has been fragmented along 20th century bureaucratic lines. The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, NSA, Commerce Department, State Department, the Defense Department have all been drawn into the operational fray. Coordinating out of the White House has been difficult with each player needing to deal with their own interests and constituencies in the law enforcement, military and private sectors. Information needs are massive, yet quite scattered in collection.
One place where we can gain some centralized order over an issue covering vast swaths of the USG is in the area of intelligence. A good example of this centralization is the National Counterterrorism Center. Created out of the chaos following 9/11, it represents the one-stop shop for coordination of the huge amounts of terrorist threat information received and also a place where long-term trends can be addressed and analyzed. It also represents a place where the IC can reach out to the private sector and law enforcement in a comprehensive manner.
So, before all the bureaucratic sniping begins, and the negative talk of another bureaucracy rings forth, let’s remember that whatever CTIIC turns out to be, at least with regards to sharing and analyzing threats in cyber space, we’ve quit talking and started to do something.