WASHINGTON: Preparations for the formal establishment of U.S. Cyber Command are under way, a senior military officer reported to Congress today.
The formal launch of the new organization is awaiting congressional approval of its commander, Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said in a written statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces.
Army Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, currently the director of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., has been nominated to command U.S. Cyber Command, pending Congressional approval. Alexander would, if confirmed, command both the NSA and Cyber Command and be promoted to full general.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and our agency partners as we move forward to establish U.S. CYBERCOM,” Chilton said.
In June 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved the establishment of cyber command to assume responsibility for operating and defending the Defense Department’s information networks as a unified sub-division of strategic command.
Gates charged U.S. Strategic Command –- that’s based at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Neb., and responsible for the United States’ nuclear arsenal and global deterrence, as well as space and information operations — to stand up the new sub-command. Cyber Command will be constituted by adjoining strategic command’s joint task force for global network operations under the operational control of the joint functional component command for network warfare, which had previously separated offensive and defensive cyberspace activities.
“This segregation detracts from natural synergies and ignores our experience in organizing to operate in the air, land, sea, and space domains,” Chilton said. “The establishment of U.S. CYBERCOM will remedy this problem in the cyber domain.”
The Defense Department operates more than 15,000 computer networks across 4,000 military installations in 88 countries. Command and control, military intelligence and logistics, and the development and fielding of weapons technology, all depend on ready access to information networks, James N. Miller, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, said in prepared remarks to the subcommittee.
“Modern armed forces simply cannot conduct high-tempo, effective operations without resilient, reliable information and communication networks and assured access to cyberspace,” Miller said.
In anticipation of the joint cyber entity, and to better ease the integration of its operations, all four service branches consolidated their individual cyber forces and created new unified commands in the past year. The department also has begun training and equipping cyber security experts and expects to develop a readily available workforce of cyber specialists, Miller said.
Chilton highlighted the necessity of standing up Cyber Command as soon as possible, addressing ongoing vulnerabilities in the department’s information networks. He cited, without elaborating, a “serious intrusion” into the Defense Department’s networks last year.
Though corrective action was taken, “cyberspace is our least mature line of operation and it is likely to remain so for some time,” he said.
Yet, Chilton remains confident that the United States will be able to master this new realm of 21st century warfighting.
“When people first took to the skies, some wondered why we would ever need to fly,” he said. “But no one today can imagine life without air travel or national security without air forces …. Just as the U.S. mastered the air domain, we will continue to strive to preserve our freedom of action in cyberspace.”