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NEWS | June 21, 2019

West Virginia Guard Hosts Multi-Agency Cyber Exercise Focused on Election Security

By Edwin Wriston West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

The West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) helped to host a Cyber Security Tabletop Exercise (TTX) dealing with election security, June 19, 2019, in Charleston, West Virginia.

The exercise is a multi-agency effort involving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM), the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office (WVSOS), the West Virginia Office of Technology, and the WVNG, along with other partner agencies.  

“The exercise is being held to identify best practices and areas for improvement in cyber incident planning, identification, response, and recovery for elections,” stated Joshua Spence, Chief Technology Officer with the West Virginia Office of Technology. “Through simulation of a realistic scenario, we will be exploring impacts to voter confidence, voting operations, and the integrity of elections if a cyber-attack occurs.”

Protection of elections is an expanding and important responsibility, especially in the face of growing cyber threats from hostile foreign governments and groups. Coordination and collaboration between state, federal, and local government agencies and partners is critical in ensuring elections are safe from outside interference or manipulation.

Over the last several years, the WVNG has worked closely with the WVSOS in a supporting role to help ensure the security of the electoral process, explained Lt. Col. Jody Ogle, WVNG Director of Communications and Cyber Programs. 


“The unified effort between the Air and Army National Guards, the WVSOS, the WVOT, and DHSEM has been very positive as the nation and state move towards a more advanced security posture. The WVNG has worked diligently to grow and train a workforce of skilled cyber security practitioners over the last several years. This effort positions us perfectly to serve in roles of national significance as well as to step up and serve the citizens of West Virginia when needed,” he said

The WVNG takes the cyber threat seriously although the state doesn’t have a cyber force structure. More than 20 Soldiers attached to the Army Interagency Training and Education Center (AITEC) headquartered in Dunbar, West Virginia, provide cyber expertise for the Critical Infrastructure Protection battalion while an additional 100 Soldiers and Airmen have received training and certifications such as Certified Incident Handlers, Certified Ethical Hacker and Certified Security Analysts through a partnership with the University of Charleston.


Additionally, the WVNG was recently tasked by U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) to assist in the development of a concept of operations to define any state’s National Guard support for cyber-related Defense Support to Civil Authority activities.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our wonderful National Guard for hosting this exercise as our state continues to be one of the leaders, nationwide, in the fight against these new types of cyber threats,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said. “West Virginia is working hard every day to ensure that classified information – vital to the safety and security of our people – is kept away from prying eyes, while also maintaining the integrity of our elections. At the end of the day, these people are more important than you could possibly imagine, and we truly appreciate them for all that they do defending our great state.”


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