SLUG: 2-270233 U-S Cybersoldiers (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:

DATE= 12/08/00







INTRO: The Pentagon is moving to shore up its computer security programs by bolstering its dedicated force of cybersoldiers. V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida reports from the Defense Department.

TEXT: Hoping to ward off what one top government official characterizes as a "digital Pearl Harbor" surprise attack, the Defense Department is establishing five special reserve units to ensure American warfighters dominate computer domains in future conflicts.

According to a Pentagon announcement, over 600 reservists will be tapped over the next seven years to staff five new so-called joint virtual information operations and information assurance organizations.

These will support five existing government information agencies, including the super-secret National Security Agency and the Computer Defense Network, a Joint Task Force formed two years ago specifically to protect Defense Department computer networks from intruders and other attacks.

Reserve affairs spokesman Colonel Terry Jones tells V-O-A the newly-established reserve units are expected to draw on civilian experts with skills in computer security. He says by augmenting existing agencies, they will bolster the Defense Department's capabilities to carry out both offensive and defensive computer operations.

The announcement of the establishment of the new reserve units comes as the senior U-S government official responsible for cyber-security policy issues a warning to the next President to take action to prevent a "digital Pearl Harbor."

Richard Clarke of the National Security Council tells a computer security conference in Washington State that as he puts it "those who wish to do us ill in cyberspace can do so easily." He says possible disruptions could affect electric power grids, telecommunications networks and defense command and control systems.

Mr. Clarke charges most government agencies have poor cyber-security. And he warns that what he calls "crackers, criminals, and foreign powers" are developing sophisticated cyber-attack capabilities and already conducting reconnaissance on U-S government networks. Mr. Clarke says the new president "better move fast" to shore up the nation's computer security. (Signed)