Although U.S. officials do not anticipate a specific threat to wreak havoc during the Nov. 6 midterm elections, the Pentagon will have officials on standby in case of a late-breaking cyber incident, a top Pentagon official said Oct. 30.
The Pentagon could send as many as 100 people to support the Department of Homeland Security’s election day security efforts if necessary, B. Edwin Wilson, a deputy assistant secretary of defense told reporters. Wilson oversees the department’s cybersecurity policy.
“If called upon, we would operate under DHS authority so there would not be any independent DoD teams. We would operate in concert with DHS for incident response for election security,” Wilson said. He added that the response would “double the size of the response options that are available.”
The federal government has planned when and how to use Pentagon resources in the hours and days following a hack, Jeanette Manfra, an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security said during an Oct. 30 event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“We are not going to be able to help for every single incident, nor do I think it is our job,” Manfra said. Instead, she said the department’s preparation has focused on legal and policy issues in the event of a cyberattack.
For example, the National Guard can respond to a cyber incident at the state and federal level if it receives approval, according to the National Cyber Incident Response Plan. The Guard can help if the federal government is not able to, according to the Stafford Act, which outlines responsibilities during a disaster.
The Pentagon is “capable of supporting local, state or federal departments or agencies in response to a request for assistance,” if it is "legally available” and approved by the president or a defense official, Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the Department told Fifth Domain in July.
U.S. officials say they have no actionable intelligence that a foreign country intends to hack the mid-term elections. But one worst case scenario officials have prepared for include a hack of the preliminary results that are announced by media outlets, which would add mistrust to the final result.