The U.S. Army last week inaugurated the firs-of-its-kind dedicated computer network operations brigade.
The decision for the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) to assemble the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade was made in 2010, and the unit's colors were officially unfurled at an activation ceremony at NSA's Friedman Auditorium in Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 1.
"With an urgent insistence and tremendous help from the National Security Agency, Department of Defense and U.S. Cyber Command, Army and Congressional staff, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command created the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade to support U.S. and Army Cyber Commands with their missions to provide a proactive cyber defense," an Army press release states.
In recent years, information systems have become central to every aspect of American life as well as assuming a critical role in government and private sector functionality, making security a top priority in order to bolster national security and the economic well being.
"This [activation] is a tribute to the belief in the notion that our nation requires assured freedom of maneuver in cyberspace in this era of persistent conflict and the advent of the increasingly more sophisticated threats to our security," said Maj. Gen. Mary A. Legere, INSCOM commanding general.
Recently, the United States Office of the Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) released a report documenting the billions of dollars in intellectual property and classified information being lost every year to cyber espionage.
The report, titled Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace, boldly suggested that state-sponsored entities are systematically targeting U.S. government and private sector networks in an effort to pilfer information that has tremendous economic value.
The nearly constant onslaught of unauthorized access events is exasperated by the lack of reprisal attackers face even if they are accurately identified.
"The challenge to our nation in this domain is upon us. You see this every day. The future danger that you envisioned has arrived. And the time for the men and women of the 780th to take your place in the Army's long gray operational line as a fully resourced operational unit ready for action is now," said Legere.
Activation of the 780th was likened to the creation of other storied military units in the past which were conceived to address a specific emerging threat.
"August 19th, 1942, Maj. Gen. Lee, commander of the newly formed 101st Airborne Division, told his Soldiers assembled at Camp Claiborne, La., that 'the 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. These men were the infantry's best-of-the-best. They were selected, trained and deployed to counter an adversary that threatened our country during the Second World War. Like the 101st, the 780th MI Brigade has no history, and was formed to counter an adversary operating in a different domain -- a highly technical, man-made domain called cyberspace," said unit commander Col. Jonathan E. Sweet.
The activation ceremony for the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade was replete with all of the pomp and circumstance one one would expect from such an historic occasion as the christening of new era in tactical warfare strategy.
"While normally it is enough to gather in time-honored tradition to pass unit colors to mark the transition of commanders and continuity of mission, on really rare occasions like today we have the opportunity to activate a new unit -- hand-picked, specifically recruited and purpose built, which has and will continue to contribute to a complex fight against those who present a clear and present danger to our nation's security, while providing new and breathtaking capabilities to our Army's already impressive portfolio of war fighting capabilities," said Legere.