Defense Department Plays Key Role in Industrial Base Oversight

By McCoy, Lloyd, Jr. | National Defense, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Defense Department Plays Key Role in Industrial Base Oversight


McCoy, Lloyd, Jr., National Defense


The Defense Department and other federal agencies have been directed to identify and protect critical infrastructure sectors specific to their mission.

Defense has oversight of the industrial base critical infrastructure sector. The United States could not project power, wage war or provide deterrence without the defense industrial base. There are more than 100,000 companies performing research, development, procurement, maintenance and support work under Defense Department contracts, so the industry's importance cannot be understated.

Given the Defense Department's reliance on the commercial sector for its mission-essential tasks, the defense industrial base is a rich hunting ground for bad actors targeting vulnerabilities to outright destroy military capabilities, gather intelligence or steal intellectual capital, any of which would severely impact U.S. national security.

Defense has two organizations leading critical infrastructure protection: one for the department's national level responsibilities--protection of the defense industrial base--and one for specific defense critical infrastructure sectors.

The Defense Contract Management Agency leads critical infrastructure protection of the defense industrial base. DCMA, in conjunction with combatant commanders, gathers a list of critical tasks and missions that the department must perform. They then identify those companies and technologies that, if harmed or exploited, could result in mission failure. This collaborative process leverages DCMA's expertise of manufacturing and supply chain factors.

Criteria DCMA uses to identify critical assets include: companies with defense-unique or dual-use technologies which, if lost, could severely impact military operations; companies with products used across the military services; and companies with advanced or emerging technologies.

A protection plan prioritizes the critical assets in the defense industrial base and facilitates information sharing with industry partners about physical and cyber threats, vulnerabilities, incidents, potential protective measures and best practices. DCMA works with federal, state and local governments, and the private sector to conduct or facilitate vulnerability assessments.

Making sure defense critical infrastructure assets are available to support military operations falls under the purview of the Defense Critical Infrastructure Program. This program is led by the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America's security affairs, who provides policy direction.

Several agencies are assigned as "defense infrastructure sector lead agents." DISLAs are the action offices responsible for identifying critical infrastructure assets, single points of failure, and corrective solutions. They recommend risk management strategies in the event a defense critical infrastructure sector is somehow degraded.

Due to the critical importance of the defense industrial base, it comes as no surprise that contractors and associated technologies are targeted relentlessly. …

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