Cybersecurity assistance is one of the National Guard’s most requested services, according to its bureau chief.
Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, said cybersecurity assistance is “one of the most frequently requested things we’re seeing right now” thanks to nearly 4,000 cyber professionals, many of whom acquired their skills in the course of their daily work.
“And the beauty when you look at our e-learnings is that a lot of these people, that’s what they do on the civilian side. And they really like doing that because it gives them the opportunity to take their learned skills through civilians, to take them to work and vice versa,” Hokanson said during an event at The Heritage Foundation event in Washington, D.C. on May 9.
And these skills are in demand under the National Guard’s international state sponsorship program, including in Ukraine.
“But many of our countries with whom we are partners [they], say hey, can you come and help us? And so it comes down to finding the right team,” he said.
“And then we identify that specific guard unit that’s most beneficial, whether it’s from that state or not. And then we coordinate that training and…or that subject exchange as quickly as possible. Because we see right now the importance of making sure your networks are secure.”
The National Guard State Partnership Program includes 87 partnerships in 93 countries around the world. Hokanson emphasized the need to share synthetic training devices or have interoperability with allies and partners, not just when it comes to military exercises, like being able to navigate a river crossing, but with virtual training capabilities.
Hokanson said the state partnership program began heavily integrating virtual training early in the COVID-19 pandemic and realized the interoperability challenges that came with it.
“Due to COVID, a lot of our partnership engagements over the past two years have had to be done virtually,” the general said, adding that virtual training is “in many ways… more cost-effective, particularly if you have a small nation or even a small state where they don’t have large budgets, and they have to balance what you need to do in person and then the same training value that you can get cheaply in a synthetic environment,” Hokanson said.
The main challenge, he said, is having the synthetic training devices on hand.
“In many cases we share them or if we don’t have that capability, as I mentioned before, linking that partner country to a state that has it. But the key there… comes back sort of to interoperability. The ability of our systems to talk to each other and work together, not just in a synthetic environment, but also in person.”
Hokanson said one of his top priorities is getting more training funds so the National Guard can participate in more exercises “where we bring allies and partners together” — which would improve interoperability. But that takes funding, he noted.
“So the only thing I would really focus on is making sure we provide more drills,” he said. “And as we look further into the future, any chance we can of sending units like platoons, companies or battalions to train with our allies and partners…it helps us become more It gives us more opportunities to work together to understand tactically how we would work together if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we are together on a battlefield.”