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Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity established the Marine Corps’ first-ever Adversarial Cyber Assessment "Blue Team", Nov. 10.

Photo by Amy Forsythe

MCTSSA establishes cyber ‘Blue Team’ designation

20 Jan 2021 | Amy Forsythe Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity

Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity established a Marine Corps’ Adversarial Cyber Assessment “Blue Team” on November 10.

This designation is dedicated to support Marine Corps Systems Command’s Programs of Record, which enhances acquisitions cyber test and evaluation capabilities, stated Maj. Gen. M.G. Glavy, commander of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, in a memo authorizing the adversarial “Blue Team” designation.

What is a Blue Team?

As part of the U.S. computer security defense initiative, “Red Teams” were developed to exploit other malicious entities that would do them harm. As a result, “Blue Teams” were developed to design defensive measures against such “Red Team” activities.

A “Blue Team” consists of security professionals with a holistic view of the organization. Their task is to protect the organization’s critical assets against any kind of cyber threat. Having a “Blue Team” capability greatly increases the Corps’ overall operational cyber resiliency in a contested cyber environment.

MCTSSA’s Cyber Assessment Team is able to assess the effectiveness of the security and defense of MCSC and Program Executive Officer Land Systems PoRs for fielded systems and those in the Developmental Test phase. It includes military, government and contractor personnel aligned to the DoD’s “Blue Team” roles.

“This capability strengthens our acquisition cyber footprint while also enhancing our Corps’ operational cyber resiliency,” said MCTSSA commanding officer Lt. Col. Michael Liguori.

Blue Team Designation

The MCAT is authorized to perform evaluator, tester and aggressor roles in accordance with the Mission Focused Cyber Hardening memo released in October 2019 by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Acquisition and Sustainment.

 “This capability strengthens our acquisition cyber footprint while also enhancing our Corps’ operational cyber resiliency.” Lt. Col. Michael Liguori, MCTSSA commanding officer

MCTSSA’s MCAT is comprised of eight to 10 people from different backgrounds, including computer engineering, cyber security and information technology.

“I would agree that having the first cyber “Blue Team” designation for the Marine Corps is an important step and I’m proud be a plank owner,” said Gunnery Sgt. Patrick McKelvey, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Test and Certification Division.

The new designation enables MCTSSA to solidify its cyberspace mission, in accurately testing and evaluating vulnerabilities in systems prior to deployments as well as identifying and recommending fixes for systems already in the fleet.

“It also enables MCTSSA to potentially increase manning for Defensive and Offensive Cyberspace Operators, those with the 17XX military occupational specialty, to support the mission,” McKelvey added.

How Does A Blue Team Work?

“Blue Teams” employ a wide range of tools allowing them to detect, collect data, perform analysis and make changes to mitigate threats, said Jimmy Clevenger, MCTSSA’s director of Infrastructure and Information Services Division.

“This certification allows our Blue Team to better support our commands and provide the capabilities we need to be successful,” said Clevenger. “Our team is positioned and ready to take on additional tasks now that we have this certification.”

MCTSSA, an elite, full-scale laboratory facility operated by the Marine Corps, is a subordinate command of Marine Corps Systems Command. MCTSSA provides test and evaluation, engineering, and deployed technical support for Marine Corps and joint service command, control, computer, communications and intelligence systems throughout the acquisition life cycle.

“The cyber ‘Blue Team’ is another example of MCTSSA’s dedication to support MCSC and our Corps’ cyber efforts in contested environments,” said Liguori.