President Donald J Trump on Friday ordered the Pentagon to elevate the status of the United States Cyber Command to a unified combatant command in its own right and said his administration is considering separating it from the National Security Agency.
The newly revamped Cyber Command will “help streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander with authorities commensurate with the importance of such operations,” according to the president’s statement.
Cyber Command is currently part of the National Security Agency under Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the NSA, but Sec. of Defense James Mattis is looking into the possibility of separating the newly-established agency. Both agencies are headquartered at Ft. Meade in Maryland.
“The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries,” stated President Trump.
The unit will be working to develop cyber weapons, punish intruders and tackle adversaries, Reuters reported.
Mattis will announce recommendations on this matter at a later date, Trump stated.
I have directed that U.S. Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on….cont: https://t.co/3iScfuMw9s
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2017
It is not clear who would be in charge of the newly elevated combatant command, but until a nominee for the new post is confirmed by the Senate, Rogers will continue in the dual role as head of Cyber Command and the NSA, said Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, during a Pentagon briefing.
It’s been rumored in a report from the Los Angeles Times that Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, who now serves as director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, is likely to lead the new command, according to U.S. officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
In April 2016, the Obama administration publicly acknowledged it was looking at elevating the status of Cyber Command. The possibility of spinning off CYBERCOM was also mentioned in former Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s plan to reorganize the Pentagon.
The Cyber Command becomes the tenth US global combatant command and the fourth one without a geographic limitation. The Pentagon has divided up the world into six regional commands – NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM for the Americas, CENTCOM for the Middle East, EUCOM for Europe and Russia, AFRICOM for Africa and PACOM for the rest of Asia and the Pacific – while the Strategic (STRATCOM), Transportation (TRANSCOM) and Special Operations (SOCOM) have global responsibilities.
Mattis will recommend an officer for Trump’s nomination and Senate confirmation, as commander, in order to establish U.S. Cyber Command as a Unified Combatant Command.
Cyber Command will have several responsibilities, including:
- All the general responsibilities of a Unified Combatant Command.
- The cyberspace-related responsibilities previously assigned to the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command.
- The responsibilities of Joint Force Provider and Joint Force Trainer.
The elevation will mark a significant evolution in the way the department organizes to execute cyberspace missions and comes as a direct result of the efforts of the entire cyber workforce, according to the Department of Defense.
The move also reflects the growing centrality of cyberspace to U.S. national security, said the DoD. “Raising the organizational status of U.S. Cyber Command is intended to demonstrate visibly DoD’s long-term commitment to cyberspace as a warfighting domain. It also signals the department’s resolve to embrace the changing nature of warfare – thus helping to reassure partners and deter adversaries,” according to a statement made by the Defense Department.
U.S. Cyber Command has matured since its establishment in 2009, and this step is expected to make the command even agiler and strengthen its voice in the department.
“Today, the Cyber Mission Force is making significant contributions in meeting the department’s toughest challenges, including the fight against ISIS. This progress has been possible thanks to the hard work and commitment of the employees of U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber workforce across the department,” said the DoD in its statement.
Military-led digital assaults are regularly integrated into large battlefield operations. The Pentagon admitted for the first time last year that U.S. commanders had mounted cyber offensives against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, praised the decision, but he cautioned that more effort is needed to deal with the cybersecurity threat this country faces from foreign adversaries.
“We must develop a clear policy and strategy for deterring and responding to cyber threats,” McCain said in a statement. “We must also develop an integrated, whole-of-government approach to protect and defend the United States from cyber attacks.”
Trump’s announcement said the shift to a separate command should be complete by October 2018.