Keith Alexander

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The U.S. military is ill-prepared for waging cyber warfare and needs to bolster defenses against the growing threat of cyber attacks against both military systems and private infrastructure, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command told Congress on Thursday.

“Those attacks are coming and I think those are near term and we’re not ready for them,” said Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command and also outgoing director of the National Security Agency.

Alexander, in prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, sounded the alarm on the need for better cyber attack and defense capabilities. He said the command’s priorities include setting up a secure “defensible” telecommunications architecture, training cyber warfare personnel, increasing intelligence data on global cyber threats, and clarifying lines of authority for conducting cyber attacks and defending government and private networks.

Cyber Command, currently staffed by 1,100 people, is making progress in all areas, said Alexander, who retires next month. However, he warned that cyber threats are increasing, shifting from temporarily disruptive attacks, to extremely damaging cyber strikes that can destroy data and machines, and potentially threaten the U.S. economy and endanger American lives.

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