US National Guard is Getting Into Cyberwar

The Maryland Air National Guard needs a new facility for its cyberwar operations:

The purpose of this facility is to house a Network Warfare Group and ISR Squadron. The Cyber mission includes a set of capabilities, expertise to enable the cyber operational need for an always-on, net-speed awareness and integrated operational response with global reach. It enables operators to drive upstream in pursuit of cyber adversaries, and is informed 24/7 by intelligence and all-source information.

Is this something we want the Maryland Air National Guard to get involved in?

Posted on July 17, 2014 at 3:16 PM31 Comments


Stephen Smoogen July 17, 2014 3:42 PM

The United States Air Force (like all the other military sets) have tried to stake out ‘Cyber’ (read Computer) security and warfare as their domain. With this being the case, then the National Guards and Reserves must have groups which echo main capabilities as they are the main supplemental force called on during combat (versus the draft). So some National Guard is going to get this somewhere… (if not many of them).

And while most of this is going to be siad in gung-ho attack the bad guy type stuff, most of their work is mostly securing the horrible state of computers that they already have.

Bob S. July 17, 2014 3:54 PM

So now the National Guard wants to upstream spy on Americans? (see: “net-speed awareness”)

Let’s get real, how many guardsmen speak Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Swahili or Hindi?

Virtually none.

How many know anything about NZ, Australia, GB or Canada worth knowing in a cyber context.

Virtually none.

So who does that leave for adversaries?

Right. You and me.

Likely American citizen a hundred miles from the fort. The NG in the next state can spy on their own.

Seems to me the cyber wheels are falling off and the military is behind the wreck. Militarizing the internet is unwise in my opinion.

As usual, I categorically deny I said this or even exist.

Bill July 17, 2014 4:03 PM

Sure, why not? On drill weekends they exchange their Ft. Meade contractor CAC for their MDANG CAC and sit down at the same terminals they left on Friday.

Scooter July 17, 2014 4:37 PM

Probably created just so someone can get a piece of the pie that went up for grabs.
“We have money and we’ll give it to someone with a cool project!”
“Uh…we’ve got a cool project! You can give us the money.”
“What’s your project?”
“Cyber is cool. Here you go.”

Uncle Dad July 17, 2014 5:01 PM

This is how it goes. The goobers always want to play too. Remember when Mississippi had its own National Security Act? Good times. Make the Opry house a command center, and next thing you know they’ll be fryin power plants all over Weahdefakawi County. “Stuxnet – what’s this here do?Ka-FOOOOM.

Clive Robinson July 17, 2014 6:00 PM

In the UK the Territorial Army (TA) kind of similar to the US National Guard, has had it’s own cyber intelligence regiment for many years. Basicaly the MOD figured it was easier to get civilian experts that were leading edge by their day jobs than it was to train regulars up to the same level.

But there is a secondary issue which is age, ITSec experts tend to be up in their 40’s or older, which means regular NCOs etc would be out having done their 22, and regular officers generaly don’t have the ITSec mind set. With a TA unit officers don’t need to go through the same military training (a president set by doctors and chaplins) and having the unit officer heavy is not to much of an issue.

From what I’ve been told the unit was first used as Intel, doing field securing and forensic analysis of captured systems in the gulf war. And befor people ask no I don’t know what the current capabilities are.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons July 17, 2014 7:00 PM

Like many others here, the warning that the MIC is/has been aligning their missions to the civil environment has been covered repeatedly. Where is the outrage that the MIC is acting as a law enforcement agency? Posse Comitatus anyone? Much of the theatre that surrounds our socio-political environment serves the needs of the MIC. Keep the public scared so they’ll approve and support our incursion into their lives.

Why is it that the U.S. citizenry is so ignorant? Simple answer; ignorance removes one from being responsible and/or having to ask/answer questions that include ethical or moral issues.

Until a response from the public that consists of pushing back on the militarism of the domestic environment–welcome to your police state. I have no confidence in either our intellectual or political class to recognize the value of “enlightened self interest”. And even less likely that the public will educate themselves as to the threats to their prosperity, liberty, and property.

Alex July 17, 2014 8:06 PM

Actually @Scooter is on the right track.

ISR -> Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance

The term ISR is a big give away this. The newly named ISR units are normally collections of pre-existing units that provide classic military targeting capabilities. For example, artillery counter-battery radars, surveillance teams that operate ground radars and long-range imaging equipment, even metrological teams have been gathered together into these ‘new’ ISR units. These types of units/capabilities have been around since WWII or the Vietnam war. It does make sense to do this from a military operations perspective.

Something similar can be said for the term “Network Warfare”. It often is used to describe classic military signals (i.e. communications) units that have been reorganised and upgraded to provide up-to-date IT/communications services. Think in terms of the different between the old enterprise communications group that delivered mainframe and PABX connectivity and modern enterprise IT service delivery organisation.

Sounds like they needed new barracks / training faculties for existing units/organisations, so calling a cyber facility is one way to ensure that the funding is provided.

“Cyber capability” is way more sexy than “we need funds to replace old buildings”.

Jean Meslier July 17, 2014 8:07 PM


I am amazed at the lack of outrage over the recent demand by Congress that the NSA surrender to it any e-mails it captured from the IRS regarding the targeting of Tea Party groups for audits. I doubt any here are sympathetic to the Tea Party, but the use of the NSA for evidence-gathering in domestic law enforcement seems to me like an exact example of what you are worrying about.

noobie July 17, 2014 8:14 PM

um, old news really. the Washington State National Guard has had a cyber operations Squadron since the early 2000’s. Go check out the 143d Information Operations Squadron.

Buck July 17, 2014 11:12 PM


Until a response from the public that consists of pushing back on the militarism of the domestic environment–welcome to your police state. I have no confidence in either our intellectual or political class to recognize the value of “enlightened self interest.”

It would appear that they’ve thought of this already… The new narrative that’s just starting to shape up is: “American people are pissed about the many documented abuses of police power, and are now resorting to senseless acts of aggression against random officers!”

Doubly whammy!! If you’re opposed to the ever-broadening dragnet, you’re obviously a dangerous unstable threat to society… With all the added benefits of repurposing/reselling military acquisitions to the ever more embattled small town police forces!

Tinfoil July 18, 2014 1:40 AM

All they are planning to do stop all the porn downloading that keeps giving them problems

Ps could the fill in the blank question handle a bit more humor, as i am not aware of any computer using humor in any other way then reproducing old jokes

Or am i just mad that “drugs?” dindt work?

John Pescatore July 18, 2014 5:07 AM

In the US, we have the “Posse Comitatus” act that limits the use of military forces in domestic affairs – this dates all the way back to 1878 as part of the US recovering from its Civil War. Largely requires Congress to act for other than prescribed uses of military forces domestically.

The use of National Guard forces gets around this – they are exempt from the Posse Comitatus act – that is why governors can use them after natural disasters, etc. This has proven very useful over the years, with a pretty good (not perfect) track record of using the National Guard.

As someone else mentioned, several state National Guard units have added cybersecurity to their list of skills/duties/specialties. I think this is actually a good thing, as it increases the cybersecurity skill base and provides a surge capacity for dealing with potential cyber attacks against state level systems.

Usual caveat that much could go wrong with this approach, just like everything else in life – but the use of the National Guard at the state level has a pretty good track record.

wiredog July 18, 2014 6:00 AM

Remember, the National Guard are the State militias, controlled by the Governor of the State. They can be Federalized, and of course get most of their funding from DoD, but they are primarily intended to be used at the State level. The Reserves are Federal.

The DC Guard, OTOH, is Federal, but that’s because of the unique nature of DC.

CallMeLateForSupper July 18, 2014 7:19 AM

Is it not glaringly obvious that implementing such a plan constitutes abuse of the Guard? The Guard is not now, nor has it ever been, “always-on”; that posture is descriptive of regular – not reserve; not guard – forces.

Assign regular work to guard (or reserve) and you essentially morph that unit into regular; guard disappears. More to the point, while the affected unit(s) settle in at their new responsibilities, their old mission(s) are not suspended, do not magically disappear.

If the guard and/or reserves becomes busied with “always-on” duties and missions, then who will do what they formerly did?

“Nr President, the Guard cannot undertake humanitarian assistance in the wake of this flood, because last week we opted to ‘enable the cyber operational need for an always-on, net-speed awareness and integrated operational response with global reach’. Did you forget, sir?”

Yeah, yeah…. I know the plan in question is aimed only at Maryland National Guard, not all Guard, but it is the nose of the camel under the tent. If one guard can be reconfigured, so could all of them. That’s it! We shoould activate reserves too, and ten throw everybody at the great, God-blessed war against terrorists (and child molesters, drug dealers, revenge porners, and privacy huggers. But then look around at the result: we’d have essentially a large standing military again while reserves and guard would, in effect, be gone. That ain’t progress.

BJP July 18, 2014 8:12 AM

@Jean Meslier

Oversight over potential government destruction of evidence and other lawbreaking is anything but domestic law enforcement. Try again.

65535 July 18, 2014 8:22 AM

Just great. Another NSA wannabe located close to Fort Meade. When you need budget money just use the catch phrase “National Security” and your budget jumps to new heights.

“…this facility is to house a Network Warfare Group and ISR Squadron.” -National Guard Bureau

It’s “National Security” 24/7. It’s there keep an eye on those shifty citizens that pose a risk of “National Security.”

The fiber taps and the drones are there for the kids… and top-secret budgets to keep the machine well oiled. It’s there to do an end-run around the Fourth Amendment in the name of “National Security.”

All I can say is it appears to be more mission creep with at large price tag. I wonder who is pulling the strings this time.

The Last Stand of Frej July 18, 2014 9:05 AM

Gawd, I really hate the “military-speak” way of writing these statist sh*tbirds always come up with to describe themselves. It was the bane of my existence when I was trying to be one of them years back.

They’re basically saying they want to hack the US’s enemies; but their attempts to make themselves sound cool belie their painful amateurism.

Bulos Qoqish July 18, 2014 9:40 AM

The Maryland Air National Guard needs money and a swank new facility with which to pursue “offensive cyber-warfare” against enemies (real or imagined) of the fine citizens of Maryland?

I’m sure that will be highly appreciated in downtown Baltimore, while they try to find who owns all those abandoned slum houses and dodge the gangster bullets.

But why stop THERE?

The Tupelo, Mississippi, Dog Catcher’s department, needs to get into the cyber-warfare business; as does the Billings, Montana, Water Treatment Authority, not to mention the Punta Gorda, Florida, Municipal Bill Collection Department. Let’s support our fine government “authorities”, and give them the tools that they obviously need, to keep America “safe” from “crooks, perverts, terrorists and subversives”.

Wait! I forgot about something!

Wouldn’t those folks from the Maryland ANG, Tupelo, Billings and Punta Gorda, need a few drones, too? Can’t be too careful, you know.

Jeremy M July 18, 2014 10:43 AM

I know a Chinese drywall subcontractor they can use to build the place and some excellent cubicle suppliers as well.

Straniero July 18, 2014 12:53 PM

Just read the postface of X by Cory Doctorow, italian edition.
Using Tor just to tell you GREAT 😀
But this time will not try to force any security system. 🙂


name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons July 18, 2014 1:19 PM

@ John Pescatore

1.) National Guard, are not state militias in any functional form.
2.) The AUMF grants no authority of the states to enter into “Cyber warfare” thus the guard is acting outside their scope or sphere of influence.
3.) A declaration, typically a state of emergency, is given to mobilize forces within the domestic United States (whether National Guard or the U.S. military proper)

I have maintained that the use of the military by congress and executive has exceed their authority by many orders of magnitude. What James Madison warned of several centuries ago has come to pass. We have a permanent standing army (the tool of tyrants) and have converted state militias in to a federal force.

The state militias are considered the first responders, the U.S. military is to be deployed when conditions exceed the ability of the militias to act effectively and avoid the use of the military as a political tool of the executive.

Prinz von der Schemering July 18, 2014 7:18 PM

I look at this piece of news and think: “Enhanced Attack Surfaces”.

This unit of the US National Guard are not subject to the same (relatively) stringent rules the US professional military are subject to; they have a much shorter path to “civvy street”; they are being handed “weaponry” that are the same ranking that the professional military use, and without professional supervision.

So, “Enhanced Attack Surfaces”.

Fred Jo July 19, 2014 12:11 PM

This concerns me. So much of the National Guard these days is just about collecting a paycheck. I was part of a unit for 18 months. It was a joke.

Holly July 21, 2014 3:21 PM

Wow the amount of people freaking out over this. Here we go again with the suddenly vast numbers of people running to the computers to protest because the government is going to spy on them. Yeah they care that you are watching porn or downloading movies and eating Doritos and drinking Red Bull. So when you are playing games on your Xbox they’ll barge in with the Maryland National Guard. Yup. All that data they collect they’ll throw a dart and pick out your name. Yup. Sky is falling sky is falling. I guess when Eddy Snowden stole (yes stole, oh I forgot convincing others to give him their passwords is not stealing when ya know it’s all in the name of handing out national secrets) all that information suddenly we all should be convinced that now the government is out to get us all. Run run head for the hills…get to the fallout shelters now!

RonK July 23, 2014 12:45 AM

@ Holly

All that data they collect they’ll throw a dart and pick out your name.

I’m not sure that your post isn’t trolling, but it’s really deliciously ironic.

  • This website is run by someone who has seen the Snowden documents, actively discusses them and issues like reforming the NSA, and is likely classified as a “subversive” site by the NSA.
  • Even if this website itself isn’t already classified as a subversive site, a very large number of other posters here certainly do things which are documented to cause the NSA to classify them as possible terrorist threats (e.g., read about Tor)
  • It is also documented that the NSA tends to classify people whose web behavior correlates with others already classified as “terrorist”, “interesting”, or “subversive” as “interesting”.

Welcome to the club, Holly! LOL

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