The Department of Defense (DoD) is looking to industry for help in bolstering the cybersecurity of U.S. allies and partner nations, said DoD’s Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, at C4ISRNET’s CyberCon 2021 event on November 10.

Eoyang explained that there are “capable cyber adversaries who are interested” in penetrating and compromising U.S. ally networks, if they are unable to break into U.S. networks themselves. She said that’s a problem that the U.S. has seen in the case of both NATO and Asia-Pacific allies.

“In the department, we have traditionally focused on the defense security cooperation as weapons systems and things like that for allies and partners. But what we’re hearing frequently from our allies and partners are requests for assistance in the cybersecurity arena,” Eoyang said.

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“We need to do a better job of understanding how we can use security cooperation and other mechanisms to help our allies and partners improve their cybersecurity,” Eoyang continued. “And this is actually an area where we can really use industry’s help because we have tremendous capability inside the United States in terms of providing cybersecurity for large enterprises, and I would argue that some of the best talent is actually in the private sector.”

Eoyang said this new effort is currently in the early stages. Right now, she said the DoD is “assessing where we are on our cybersecurity offerings,” and is working on “doing a better job of understanding what’s available out there in the private sector [and] how that might fit for allied partner needs.”

“We are having conversations with our security cooperation allies, with regional commands, with Cyber Command, about how we put together efforts – whole of nation efforts – to improve the cybersecurity of our allies,” Eoyang said. “And it’s certainly a conversation we look forward to having with industry to better understand what are the obstacles to doing that [and] how can we incentivize that.”

She went on to say it is an “important conversation” for the DoD to have with industry,  and “we think it’s one that we need to have.”

“We have a lot of work to do here, but we are really interested in moving forward,” Eoyang said of the effort. “We think this is really important because I do think not all of our allies and partners are equally situated to their understanding of the highly capable threat that we’re all up against.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.