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The GAO slides reveal that plans to put SM-3 Block IIBs in Poland and Romania may not be effective in protecting the United States.

It states that “a location in the North Sea is a better location than either Romania or Poland for defense of the U.S. homeland, although this option if liquid propellants are used has significant safety risks and unknown, but likely, substantial cost implications.”

A Missile Defense Agency spokesman declined to comment on the GAO study.


President Obama announced during his State of the Union speech that earlier Tuesday he had signed a new executive order aimed at bolstering defenses to protect vital American computer networks from cyberattack.

A White House fact sheet reveals the big winner in the bureaucratic battle over who can best protect U.S. critical infrastructure, most of which is privately owned, is the Homeland Security Department and Secretary Janet A. Napolitano, whom libertarian critics have dubbed “Big Sis” over concerns of government intrusion and restrictions on Internet freedom.

Under the order on critical infrastructure security, Homeland Security gets the lead role, although the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command are widely viewed as having the best expertise and experience in defending and countering cyberattacks.

“It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of its critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats,” the order says.

A key provision is the statement that “the secretary of Homeland Security shall provide strategic guidance, promote a national unity of effort, and coordinate the overall federal effort to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Critics both inside and outside of Homeland Security say the department cannot handle the responsibility because it lacks a professional cadre of cybersecurity specialists and is too reliant on outside contractors, most of them retirees from the intelligence community.

The directive lists a series of bureaucratic reporting requirements for government, including the creation of a “near real-time situational awareness capability for critical infrastructure” — an intelligence-gathering effort to identify threats and vulnerabilities.

That system must be demonstrated within the next eight months.

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command and NSA director, told reporters Wednesday that the executive order is a first step.

“This executive order is only a down payment on what we need to address the threat,” Gen. Alexander said. “This executive order can only move us so far, and it’s not a substitute for legislation. We need legislation, and we need it quickly, to defend our nation. Agreeing on the right legislation actions for much-needed cybersecurity standards is challenging.”