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Cyber Command Moves Into Position

May 06, 2010
by Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Online Exclusive
E-mail About the Author

Update May 11: The Senate has confirmed Keith Alexander's promotion to general.

While they await the U.S. Senate’s decision about assigning Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, USA, as commander of the U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), military members of the new sub-unified command are poising their fingers above computer keyboards ready to begin their mission. Decisions already have been made about which joint commands to disestablish and merge and where the command’s headquarters will be: Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, some 1,177 miles away from U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), its host unified command. While the date of initial operational capability is nebulous, full operational capability (FOC) is scheduled to occur on October 1, 2010. If confirmed, Gen. Alexander will serve as both the director of the National Security Agency and CYBERCOM’s commander.

During his confirmation hearing last month, the general emphasized the need for the new command to strike a balance between protecting military assets and personal privacy. Alarmed by the increase in threats to U.S. Defense Department computer systems this year, his primary focus would be on building the capacity and capability needed to secure these networks and educate the public about the command’s intent. CYBERCOM is not intended to militarize cyberspace, and its actions will be audited, he added.

STRATCOM’s existing Joint Functional Component Command–Network Warfare (JFCC-NW) and the Joint Task Force–Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) will comprise the new command; JFCC-NW is being disestablished and becomes the sub-unified command’s first staff. At FOC, the JTF-GNO, formerly led by DISA’s director, will be disestablished and absorbed into CYBERCOM.

The full mission, functions, tasks and resources of the JTF-GNO and JFCC-NW will be consolidated; however, the military’s information technology acquisitions will remain DISA’s responsibility. The agency will provide program management, maintenance, research and development, and enterprise infrastructure for the military domain used by warfighters, national-level leaders, and mission and coalition partners across all department operations.

Although little information about the specifics of the command is being released until after confirmation of its commander, one CYBERCOM staff member says that STRATCOM has begun moving toward FOC. It has established operational control of the JTF-GNO under the JFCC-NW, consolidated these two organizations’ staffs and relocated them to Fort Meade, and established a joint operations center.

Other parts of the transition also are well underway. The Defense Department has determined that CYBERCOM will initially focus on strategic partnerships, lines of operations, and support to other department and U.S. government organizations; staff functions among these organizations are and will be clearly delineated. Once at full operational capability, the command will focus on delivering a full spectrum of cyber capabilities.

STRATCOM and CYBERCOM will continue to work closely with industry leaders, academia, the services, other combatant commands and Defense Department agencies as the architecture of the Internet evolves. “Industry has an amazing capacity for rapid innovation and implementation. As industry continues to develop new technologies and processes, it is incumbent to ensure safe, secure and reliable access to information,” CYBERCOM’s representative states.

Among the basic “housecleaning” practices that companies can conduct to improve information system security significantly are compliance to network/system security patches, personnel awareness and training, and guarding personal information. “As CYBERCOM develops its strategic partnerships with the various Defense Department, U.S. government, academic and industry organizations, it will endeavor to synchronize, facilitate and protect the military networks and provide assistance to other organizations,” the CYBERCOM spokesman explains.