In the wake of increasing cyber attacks across the United States, the National Guard is commencing its annual cyber defense training exercise July 10-23, 2021. Cyber Shield 21 is a concentrated effort to develop, train and exercise cyber forces in the areas of computer network internal defensive measures and cyber incident response. With its core personnel operating in-person at Camp Williams, Cyber Shield 21 brings together more than 750 of the nation’s top cyber defense professionals from National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to various industry partners in a hybrid in-person and online environment, with the majority of participants attending the event virtually from all over the United States.
“It is all about planning and training together,” Neely said. “Cyber Shield is special because it integrates all levels of government and utilities, high-tech industry, law enforcement and other partners. It has been described as kind of like a pick-up basketball game where the teams choose their best players, both in the military and outside the military, and bring them along.”
“Cyber incidents are an ongoing and substantial threat in 2021; America’s power plants, food supply, water supply, health care, law enforcement and defense sectors have all come under attack,” said Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during a media roundtable on June 29, 2021. He continued, “These cyber threats extend our adversaries’ reach across borders and time zones and it could have devastating consequences.”
In the roundtable’s opening statement, Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard Neely, adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard and a master cyberspace officer highlighted several recent cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, pointing out the unsettling fact there have been attacks or attempted attacks in every U.S. state. Even though National Guard response isn’t needed for every attack, Neely stressed the importance of inter-agency readiness. The Utah National Guard is providing 19 Soldiers in support of Cyber Shield 21, including several that assisted in preparations and setup in the weeks and months leading up to the exercise.